a day in sioux falls, south dakota

I started my day in Sioux Falls, South Dakota by having biscuits and gravy for breakfast.  It seemed hearty meals were called for in this part of the country.

My first stop was the Cathedral of St. Joseph. Its story began when Catholic missionary priests journeyed into what would become the Dakota Territory. The first of these was Father Pierre Jean De Smet, who began ministering in the region in 1838.

After numerous moves and changes, construction of the new Cathedral got underway by 1915.  World War I hindered progress by creating a shortage of skilled workers and materials.  The cathedral was finally completed and dedicated on May 7, 1919. The first Mass had already been celebrated in the unfinished cathedral on December 8, 1918.

There was a 9:00 Saturday mass in progress, so I slipped into the back and waited till the church had almost cleared out, then I took some photos.

I had a brief walk in the St. Joseph’s Cathedral Historic District. In 1974, this neighborhood became the first historic district in South Dakota to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This old Sioux Falls neighborhood contains approximately 220 structures. Of these, 46 percent were built before 1900, and 85 percent were completed by 1920.

At a fenced yard a dog was barking viciously and flung himself at the high fence, his head popping up at the top.  One board was missing from the fence; I was afraid he’d get out through there, so I hightailed it out of there.

Historic District Sioux Falls
Historic District Sioux Falls

I arrived at Falls Park Visitor Information before they opened at 10:00.  I went up to the five-story, 50-foot tall observation tower, then walked all around the 123-acre Falls Park.  It was incredibly gloomy, but at least it wasn’t raining – yet.

The Big Sioux River has been flowing in its present course here for over 10,000 years. Native Americans were the first to visit the falls and bring stories of them to European explorers. The Falls have been a highlight of recreation and industry since the city was founded in 1856. Many Sioux Falls historic buildings were made from the Sioux Quartzite including several buildings at Falls Park. The “pink rock” is the hardest rock second to diamond. The Sioux Quartzite is among the oldest rock exposed in South Dakota. It is very resistant to erosion.

Each second, an average of 7,400 gallons of water drop 100 feet over the course of the falls.

Falls Park

A man was saying rude things to people walking by, and it was disconcerting. He was causing a disturbance. Later, three police (two men & one woman) came and led him away, holding him on either side by his arms.

Another guy was using a remote control pick up truck on the rose quartzite.

Falls Park
Falls Park

I walked around the remains of the seven-story Queen Bee Mill, built between 1879 and 1881 under the guidance of politician Richard F. Pettigrew.  It cost $500,000 and it processed 1,500 bushels of grain each day.  By 1883, the mill closed due to inadequate water power and a short supply of wheat.  In 1956, fire destroyed the wooden roof and interior floors.  The upper walls were later knocked down to prevent them from falling.

Queen Bee Mill

After leaving the Falls, I passed the Silver Moon Bar & Lounge on my way into downtown Sioux Falls, where I walked down Phillips Avenue for the SculptureWalk Sioux Falls, the largest annual exhibit of public sculptures in the world.  The art is displayed all year throughout downtown Sioux Falls.

I popped into Zandbroz Variety, which sells soaps, books, pens, fine papers, cards, baskets, jewelry, gourmet foods, and many quirky things displayed charmingly in antique cupboards and vintage cabinetry from drug-store days.  It was very colorful. The back area was once a soda fountain and coffee bar but at that time offered used books and vintage items for sale.

Zandbroz Variety

It was starting to rain by this time, so I went to the Old Courthouse Museum.  The restored 1800s quartzite building featured three floors of regional history exhibits and sixteen historic murals.

Old Courthouse Museum

Let’s Ride: Vintage Motorcycles took a look at the history of motorcycles while featuring a variety of bikes from numerous manufacturers. By the 1910s, the motorcycle boom reached Sioux Falls.

World War I: The Great War was considered a war to end all wars. The Great War created many advances in technology, the medical field, and shaped military strategies. Local communities such as Sioux Falls became vital arteries in helping with the war effort. World War I became an unprecedented catastrophe that affected an immeasurable amount of people and shaped the modern world.

The Tornado Tree showed the powerful effect of tornadoes. When a tornado went through the southern part of town, it destroyed the bridge that went over the river near 41st Street and the Mall.

The Fawick Flyer was a two-door model car built by local inventor Thomas Fawick.

Fawick Flyer

The Norwegian Style Loom is a four harness, counter-balanced, direct tie-up loom. It was hand-built by Anders Sorken and Rasmus Elgaaen. The loom was donated to the Siouxland Heritage Museum’s collection in 1988.

Norwegian Style Loom
Norwegian Style Loom

cash register

Tonics and Tools of Medicine examined early Sioux Falls medicine and the instruments that helped keep its citizens healthy. The people of 19th century Sioux Falls relied on doctors, drugstores, and some home remedies to get better, but without twenty-first century technology, early medical professionals relied on basic tools and different practices to treat their patients.

Theaters: Stage to Screen showcased the many theaters that once were in Sioux Falls. Many of them were built or remodeled for both stage and screen. Hollywood’s “Golden Era” in movies exploded, and America was mesmerized by film. These theaters flourished.

I especially loved the motorcycle exhibit and the Toys exhibit: it exhibited toys from the 1800s to the 1990s: Ouija Board (called Mystic Soothsayer), Barbies, Lincoln Logs, GI Joes, erector sets, matchbox racetracks, checkers, Clue, Lotto, Felt-o-gram, toy musical instruments, Tinker Toys, pull toys, wooden finger puppers, a pinball machine, Spirograph, Basic Microscope, Junior Doctor Kit, Chinese Checkers, Battleship, PacMan, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Pound Puppies, Mr. Potato Head, Pet Rocks, and Chatty Cathy. 🙂  There were so many toys I recognized from my childhood. 

The artist who did the murals was Ole Runing, born in Norway in 1874; he immigrated to the U.S. in 1906. He spent two years on the sixteen murals and was only paid five hundred dollars. The murals depict the falls of the Big Sioux River in Sioux Falls and the Palisades rock formation near Garretson, South Dakota. Late in the project, he was aided by his son Elmer.

This was a truly fascinating museum.

Information from the Courthouse Museum is taken from a pamphlet distributed by the Old Courthouse Museum.

I headed to the Japanese Gardens at Terrace Park, but it was raining and I was hungry, so I went to Burger King for a Whopper Junior with cheese, fries, and a Diet Coke.

I drove east 30 minutes to Palisades State Park, passing Tucker’s Walk Vineyard.  By then it was really raining, so I just went to the Balancing Rock Overlook then walked on the very short King and Queen Rock Trail.

The Split Rock Creek, which flows through Palisades State Park, is lined with Sioux quartzite formations varying from shelves several feet above the water to 50-foot vertical cliffs. Geologists estimate the Sioux quartzite spires in the park are 1.2 billion years old.

Palisades State Park
Palisades State Park

I drove over the 1908 Palisades Bridge. The steel bridge rests on natural abutments of Sioux quartzite.

1908 Historic Bridge at Palisades State Park

On the way back from Palisades, I listened to “Big Foot” by Johnny Cash about Wounded Knee.  I seem to vaguely remember a book or movie titled Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, that was required reading in high school or college. I felt I should read it again.

As I drove back, I worried that the Corn Palace wouldn’t be open the next day because it was a Sunday. I passed Augustana University: The Place for Possibilities. A sign said WRANGLE UP SOME RINGNECKS (whatever that meant!).

Then I decided I’d try to go back to Sioux Falls to the Washington Pavilion. However, they had all the roads around it blocked off for a big fair: The Sidewalk Arts Festival. I got tired of driving around looking for parking, so I drove out of the town and stopped at the Terrace Park and Japanese Gardens.  The area known as Terrace Park is located on a bluff overlooking an ancient part of the Big Sioux River’s System of oxbows and overflow flood plain. This bluff is part of a series of bluffs that form the east side of the Big Sioux River valley.

It was pleasant enough but I wasn’t feeling good so decided to return to my hotel to rest.

I had stomach cramps for much of the afternoon, so I wasn’t yet hungry. I returned to my hotel to rest before dinner.

Later, I went to the colorful Guadalajara Mexican Restaurant, where I had my favorite chili relleno, a tamale, refried beans, rice and a Corona. 

Back at the hotel, I talked to Mike, as I did every night of my trip.

Here are my journal pages from this day.

*Drove 73.5 miles; Steps: 12,449, or 5.28 miles*

*Saturday, September 7, 2019*