South Dakota’s Newest State Park Adds Historically Significant Forestland Along Big Sioux River

March 28, 2014

Big Sioux River

Big Sioux River from Good Earth State Park. Photo by Clint Miller

One of the Oldest Native American Trading and Ceremonial Sites in the Country is Protected Thanks to Forest Legacy Program

Sioux Falls, S.D.—A significant section of the newly-established Good Earth State Park was acquired and protected today thanks to a partnership between The Conservation Fund, South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, and the U.S. Forest Service. Located in one of the largest and most important Oneota cultural sites in the Midwest, the 236-acre property offers nature trails through oak woodlands, savanna, native prairies and scenic vistas that stretch along 1.6 miles of the Big Sioux River. This acquisition was made possible with a grant from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, which is funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and fundraising by the South Dakota Parks and Wildlife Foundation.

The property, located just a few short miles southeast from rapidly-developing Sioux Falls, was a high priority for conservation because it was the last remaining intact forestland within the Blood Run National Historic Landmark—a 3,000-acre expanse along both sides of the Big Sioux River that was once a vibrant Native American ceremonial and trading center. The Conservation Fund purchased the property in 2011 as a temporary measure while the state sought funding for its permanent protection and inclusion into Good Earth State Park.

Good Earth State Park 645x430

Forest at Good Earth State Park

The Forest Legacy Program works with state agencies and local landowners to protect environmentally important forests that are threatened with conversion to non-forest uses. South Dakota competed nationally with 63 other projects and was one of 20 selected for 2013 Forest Legacy funding, coordinated through the South Dakota Department of Agriculture’s Division of Resource Conservation and Forestry. U.S. Senators Tim Johnson and John Thune and U.S.Representative Kristi Noem supported federal appropriations for the Forest Legacy Program and the LWCF in fiscal year 2013.

“The cultural, educational, natural beauty and opportunity for outdoor activities of this site is of immeasurable significance to our state and the nation,” said Gov. Dennis Daugaard. “The opportunity to preserve this resource is a testament to the effort of so many agencies, organizations and individuals that shared this vision.”

“I congratulate the partners that worked together to make this key land acquisition to the Good Earth State Park at Blood Run a reality,” said Senator Johnson.  “Between federal funding from the Forest Service Forest Legacy program, the generosity of The Conservation Fund, the commitment of the State of South Dakota, and the admirable private fundraising efforts of the South Dakota Parks and Wildlife Foundation and others, this park is a true success story.  Visitors will be able step back through time to see what the land looked like centuries ago when this was an important hub of the Oneota and the tribes of the Little Prairie Sioux.  This is a great addition to South Dakota’s parks for all to enjoy and experience.”

“Thanks to the hard work and partnership efforts of The Conservation Fund, State of South Dakota and the South Dakota Delegation, countless visitors will enjoy and learn about this scenic, cultural and environmentally important forestland. We are honored to have been able to contribute to this signature conservation partnership through our Forest Legacy program,” said Dan Jirón, Regional Forester for the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service.

Photo by South Dakota Fish and Game

Photo by South Dakota Fish and Game

Dedicated in July 2013, Good Earth State Park is one of the oldest sites of long-term human habitation in the United States. The abundance of food and shelter resources provided by the river and forestland attracted a variety of Native American tribes. Ancestors of the Omaha and Ioway tribes established villages in the area in the late 1400s.  From at least 1600 to 1700 A.D., this tribal community supported a population as high as 6,000 and served as a vibrant exchange center, drawing trade from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Coast.

Good Earth State Park currently offers three miles of trails with plans to improve and extend the trail system. Plans also call for a world class visitor center to be completed in 2015. The visitor center will interpret the cultural and natural history of the Blood Run National Historic Landmark.

“This project is about partnership, commitment, and perseverance,” said Clint Miller, Midwest Project Director with The Conservation Fund. “The vision to protect this notable location was set in motion decades ago; and the commitment of our partners, including the State, the Forest Service and the S.D. Parks and Wildlife Foundation, over the last several years—as well as support from the congressional delegation for LWCF funding – has made this dream come true. I am delighted The Conservation Fund could facilitate this cultural and historical achievement.”

Additional Information

Places Where We Work - Good Earth State Park 

Park Website - Visit Good Earth State Park


About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.

Press Release Contacts

Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 | asimonelli@conservationfund.org

Chris Strebig | U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region | 303-275-5346 | cstrebig@fs.fed.us

Jamie Crew | South Dakota Department of Agriculture | 605-773-4073 | jamie.crew@state.sd.us