Palisades State Park � another 'day trip' in SD that's easy to get to � and beautiful Red granite cliffs line the banks of the Big Sioux River at Palisades State Park near Garretson, and columns of the rock rise straight out of the river in several places. The park is a popular camping area that offers many forms of recreation for those who want to take a short trip for a scenic get-away. by Bill Willroth Sr. Planning a trip at our house usually begins by dragging out the atlas and looking at all of the far away national parks, mountain ranges and sea shores which require two days of steady driving before you get to where you may want to take a picture.
This doesn�t have to be the only answer when you live in a state like our South Dakota!
One sunny day late last summer, my wife, Jo, suggested we drive up to Palisades State Park. We moved to South Dakota in 1963 and in the ensuing 36 years we had never taken the time to drive the 100 miles or so to visit this place � a destination you never think twice about driving to � that is really only a few minutes away from Sioux Falls. And it�s surprising how many of our friends, some who were born and raised here, have never visited this park, either.
Palisades State Park, for those of you who don�t know, is just south of Garretson, and is easy as pie to get to. From here, drive up Interstate 29 to Interstate 90 and go east to the Corson exit. Then head north on Highway 11 from there.
It�s a pretty drive! The trip takes just a little more than an hour and when you get close to Garretson, just follow the signs and you�ll find yourself at the park entrance.
If you already have South Dakota�s annual park sticker, you�re in quickly. If you don�t have the sticker, you will have to pay the small daily fee at the gate.
The park is small and as you drive in, it doesn�t take but a minute to reach the Big Sioux River which you can cross over, park and begin your exploration from there.
There are several hiking trails that will lead you along the river on either side and give you different views of the magnificent granite walls and columns that rise out of the river. The trails are easy and the hikes are worth the effort, especially if you like to take pictures.
There is a different shot every way you turn, from the rocks to the plants growing along the trails and the river itself with its rapids bubbling in several places.
If your family likes camping, there are many sites in the park � some with electrical hookups. Naturally there is a comfort station, picnic grounds and a shelter that you can retire to after you tire of canoeing, fishing or hiking. There�s a playground for the little guys and rock climbing is permitted (at least it was last year) for those who like to live on the edge and are physically able. (Actually, the rock climbing doesn�t look as if it would be too challenging to an expert, but the straight up and down walls of the granite could have steps carved in them and this old sailor wouldn�t attempt the climb.)
If you are a day tripper and tire of what The Palisades have to offer, your traveling day doesn�t have to end just yet. Drive into Garretson and again follow the signs to Devil�s Gulch, where Outlaw Jesse James supposedly jumped his horse over this chasm to escape a following posse after robbing a Minnesota bank. There are trails here that allow you to explore the gulch and the surrounding area.
Garretson itself seems to be a nice town with several restaurants available for weary hikers to replenish their strength. We had an excellent sandwich on homemade bread in a small corner cafe where loaves of the bread were also sold to take home.
And what is a trip to a different place without finding a shopping opportunity? You shoppers will find a well known Christmas store in town that will keep you occupied as long as you like!
All in all, this trip can be a fun time for everyone in the family. It�s not far � it doesn�t take too long � it doesn�t cost very much (if you�re careful in the Christmas store) � and you don�t need an atlas to find the place. Do it if you never have � it�s worth seeing!