Site of future Blood Run state park draws visitors

By Dirk Lammers
Sioux Falls, South Dakota (AP) July 2012

Blood Run, a national historic landmark set to become South Dakota’s first new state park in more than 50 years, is already drawing some 20 cars a day.

The picturesque acreage along the Big Sioux River bordering Iowa was used by thousands of Oneota Indians into the early 1700s, and its diverse landscape boasts a large oak forest, rolling hills, flood plains and riverside bluffs.

Visitors can traverse two miles of mowed trails on their own, but Eric Vander Stouwe, who supervises the Blood Run property and nearby Newton Hills State Park, suggested taking a tour led by historian Edward Raventon. The tours provide information about Blood Run’s historically rich burial mounds, refuse pits and artifacts.

“We started with 12 people for guided hikes every Saturday morning, but the interest was so high that we doubled it,” Vander Stouwe said.

Park officials are developing a brochure for self-guided tours that should be available online within weeks, he added.

The Oneota culture wasn’t a single tribe but conglomerate of groups with similar characteristics dating back to 1200 or earlier. The Oneota grew corn and other staples, hunted bison, made pottery, built circular lodges and stored perishable food underground in bell-shaped storage pits lined with grass and covered with logs or bison hides.

Many Oneota groups settled on flood plains along rivers, and the Blood Run site eight miles southeast of Sioux Falls is likely the largest of the Oneota sites. The area was occupied in later times by the Omaha, Ponca, Ioway and Oto, and it’s believed that many tribes can trace their lineage back to the Oneota.

Blood Run is believed to have received its name from white settlers, perhaps because the iron-rich rocks leached into the stream on the Iowa side to give it a reddish tint.

Iowa’s Blood Run National Landmark Site across the Big Sioux River is managed by the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Lyon County Conservation Board. People can visit the site by booking guided tours through the county. It is home to Blood Run Creek and features numerous burial mounds. There are several pink granite boulders whitened from weathering and adorned with 2-inch cup-shaped indentations that have a symbolic or spiritual purpose.

The entire Blood Run site could eventually encompass some 1,400 acres in South Dakota and Iowa.

South Dakota began its quest to preserve the land in 1995 when it partnered with Forward Sioux Falls and the city’s chamber of commerce to acquire 200 acres on what will be the southern end of the state park.

The state bought another 10 acres in December before teaming with the South Dakota Parks and Wildlife Foundation and The Conservation Fund later that month to buy the 324-acre Buzz Nelson farmstead for $3.5 million. Officials are now looking at buying 80 acres to the west of the Nelson farm that would serve as a permanent park entrance and another 60 acres of flood plain south of the property that sits just across the river from the Iowa site.

Nearly all of the money is expected to come from federal grants and fundraising, and the title holders of the acreage are still changing hands.

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department plans to seek state park status when the Legislature convenes in January.

The department’s master plan eventually calls for entrance roads, a visitor center, historic preservation and interpretation, group and rustic camping areas, ceremonial sites and a pedestrian bridge linking the South Dakota and Iowa sides.

In the meantime, officials have added parking, a drinking fountain and a small picnic area so people can take advantage of the site before it’s an official park, Vander Stouwe said.

“People are excited,” he said.


Blood Run Master Plan:

South Dakota Outdoor Campus: