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My South Dakota trip journal

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We had such a wonderful trip to South Dakota.  I hope everyone can take this trip sometime.  We did a LOT of driving (actually my husband did all of it), and saw so much.  I was very impressed with all the different landscapes and terrains we saw.  It was so beautiful and I praised God often for His beauty and creativity.  We also saw many animals, which is always a joy for me.  The kids handled the trip pretty well, considering their ages.  We are still catching up on sleep a week later!

We left our house at 6:30 a.m.  We drove up into Wisconsin planning on catching the interstate in Madison.  However, they had just closed it due to flooding, so we had to take a detour that set us back a couple of hours.  It was fun crossing the Mississippi River.  We drove through Minnesota and saw many impressive windmills.  (I need to learn about those.)  That evening we arrived in Brandon, South Dakota, just outside of Sioux Falls.

The morning was spent driving around the town and then walking around and climbing on the rocks at Falls Park in Sioux Falls.  We had lunch with some relatives of my husband’s.  The kids particularly liked jumping on their trampoline!  Later in the afternoon we decided to go to the Family Aquatic Center (instead of the zoo).  It was our first time to take all 5 kids to a place like that.  My husband had the 2 boys and went down a couple of water slides, while I stayed with the younger ones in the shallow splash pool.

The next day we left early to drive to DeSmet.  We stopped in Brookings along the way to see SDSU, where my father-in-law went to school.  DeSmet, for those who don’t recognize the name, is where Laura Ingalls Wilder spent many years of her life.  About 5 of her books are written about this town.  My husband read all the books earlier this year, so it was a treat to see it in person.  We started out in the town and went on a tour of the Surveyor’s House, 2 school houses and the house Pa built for his family after Laura married.  Then the kids had fun playing in a "hands-on" pioneer school room.  On the way out of town we drove by the cemetary and the original Ingalls homestead site.  We didn’t realize how much there was to do at the homestead.  I would definitely recommend stopping there first–that’s what we’ll do next time!
We then drove on to Pierre, the capitol city of South Dakota.  I enjoyed seeing the huge dam they had built over the Missouri River there.

It was finally time to head to the Black Hills!  We drove to Rapid City for lunch and then to the Bear Country USA, which is a drive-through wildlife park.  Then we headed over to Mt. Rushmore.  We did a lot of walking there, so we were certainly ready for a good night’s sleep at the "Eagle’s Nest" cabin.

My 7 yo really wanted to go to the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is a huge unfinished sculpture in a mountain.  It was started in the 1940s by one of the men who helped with Mt. Rushmore.  When it’s finished, it will be the largest sculpture in the world.  Then we went for a long drive through Custer State Park and saw wildlife, again, on the side of the road.  We saw buffalo, deer, goats, and burros.  Every time my 20-month-old saw an animal, he’d say, "Woof, woof!"  Then it was time for the Chuckwagon dinner and show.  We went to the Circle B Ranch.  The boys did pistol shooting (with wax bullets), while the rest of us saw the animals, a wood-carver and climbed on a covered wagon.  The dinner was good, but the 2 younger kids had had it with sitting still.  So, my husband and I took turns listening to the show while the other stayed outside with the little guys.  I was a fun performance, with a dad and his 3 sons.

Today we did a different drive–through a canyon.  We saw a pretty waterfall and then went to the Spearfish Fish Hatchery.  Later, the kids played at a fun park in Rapid City called Storybook Island.

Today was the day to explore a cave.  I didn’t originally have this on my list, but my sons were so excited to do it.  (I bet it had something to do with all of the Jonathan Park CDs we had been listening to!)  My husband took the 3 older kids on a tour through the Rushmore Cave while the 2 little ones and I spent time in the gift shop.  They had a great time!
We took one more drive through the Black Hills on Iron Mountain Road.  This was a road with 3 tunnels through rock hills, two of which you could see Mt. Rushmore through the tunnel, very cool!
Now it was time to leave the Black Hills and head to the Badlands.  What another awesome sight!  It was so beautiful.  We saw a prairie dog town (very cute!)  When we headed to the little cabin, I realized that the water tasted terrible and we were out of bottled water.  So, we took a trip to Wall Drug.  We got water– and fudge!

Time for another adventure for the boys and dad–they went hiking on one of the badlands trails.  We decided to head home a different way and drove through Nebraska.  We stayed the night at Sioux City, Iowa.

To finish out the trip we drove through Iowa and the northern part of Illinois, more places I had never seen before.  I think we’ll definitely go to Galena, IL sometime.

Happy as we get started:

Falls Park, SD

Dad with his crew

DeSmet, SD

Surveyor’s House

Laura’s first teaching school

A bear right outside my window.

Mt. Rushmore

Buffalo at Custer State Park

Horses at the Chuckwagon Show

Bridal Falls

Playing at Storybook Island

The Badlands

Ready to be home!

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  2. jabbabean says:


    I can't believe you were able to do this trip pregnant! I'm glad it was great. Sounds like there is a lot to do out west. Hope you all recover soon!


  3. kristenph says:

    I've always wanted to go to DeSmet, SD. I have always loved all things Laura Ingalls Wilder. I got to go to her museum in Missouri about 10 years ago and it was very nice, but to see some of the places in her books would be fantastic.

  4. caroline4kids says:

    We own a farm near Walnut Grove, MN and go to the Laura Ingalls pagent every summer that we are there. We are in Alabama on an army post right now for the military, but our farm is literally on the Banks of Plum Creek!

    My sister in law lives in Sioux Falls and we just love SD. I can't wait to take my kids to Mt. Rushmore (they were too little to remember the last time we were there).

    I'm so glad you had a good time in what most consider to by fly-over country. I love it. 🙂

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