Tag Archives: biking

Falls Park

Falls Park

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Native Americans were the first visitors the falls of the Big Sioux River.  The Lakota and Dakota were nomadic bison hunters, and they used the falls as a place to rendezvous with French fur trappers.  As the land around the falls was claimed by European settlers, a 1,200-acre village sprung up.  Sioux Falls became an official city in 1883.  Railroads really put the city on the map, with a population spike from 2,164 in 1880 to 10,167 at the end of the decade.  Economic ups and downs over the years mirrored the nation at large, but through it all, the falls have been central to the city’s industry and recreation.

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In pioneer days, the falls were used for water power to run the Queen Bee Mill.  When it was built, the mill could process 1,500 bushels of wheat and was considered one of the most advanced facilities in America.  Unfortunately, weak water power and a lack of wheat forced it to close in 1883, just six years after it was built.  A few companies attempted to  make the mill a going concern over the years, but nothing worked.  After a fire in 1956 compromised the structure, upper walls were knocked down until only two of the original seven stories of the mill remain.

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Remains of the seven-story Queen Bee Mill

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Millrace and dam

Today, Falls Park covers 123 acres with an average of 7,400 gallons of water dropping 100 feet each second.  With paved walking and biking paths, picnic tables scattered charmingly on the grassy spots, and a cafe in the old Light and Power Company building, the park is captivating place to spend an afternoon with family and friends.

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Woodlake Park (Lake City, Colorado)

Woodlake Park (Lake City, Colorado)

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En route to Mike’s next gig in Rapid City, South Dakota, we stopped in Lake City, Colorado, to visit his middle daughter. When our first-choice campground didn’t have any openings, we settled on Woodlake Park, two-and-a-half miles south of town. The campground turned out to be great, but getting there proved to be rather challenging…all because we followed the GPS.

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The GPS took us halfway up Highway 149S.  The Silver Thread Scenic Highway, as 149 is also known, lives up to its name.  It is, indeed, scenic and beautiful.  However, south of Lake City, it becomes steep and windy, not particularly RV-friendly.  Thinking we were almost to the campground, we didn’t worry too much, although we weren’t looking terribly forward to driving back down.  However, when we got to the bend in the road where the campground was supposed to be, there was nothing but trees… and no place to turn around.  With drizzle accompanying us, we continued motoring up, until we found a state park we could turn into.  About a 1/2 mile in, we found a spot to unhook the Jeep, back the rig up and turn around.  Heading back down the mountain, we easily saw the sign for our campground.  Because it was set back from the highway, it wasn’t visible going up, but it was clear as day coming down.  Whew! What a relief!

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We were assigned spot J on the forest side of the park, which is the new side.  The full-hookup spots are very roomy, plenty of space to spread out and have a little distance from your neighbor.  Trash cans are discreetly positioned throughout, and we were intrigued by the posted signs that advised us not to put any trash into them after 7:30 p.m.  When we saw that the garbage truck near the office was surrounded by an electrified fence , we put two and two together and realized that these were precautions for keeping the bears away.

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The river side of the park.

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The forest side of the park.

There’re plenty of hiking trails around the park that are also terrific for running or bike riding.  Mike and I rode the bikes one day, and I ran and hiked on the others.  Although it’s secluded, the area is safe.  The main thing to be aware of is the altitude’s impact on your breathing.

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Garbage truck surrounded by an electrified fence

Staying at Woodlake, we were perfectly situated to venture into Lake City to grab a coffee at Mean Jean’s, wander the shops, or see a play at the Mary Stigall Theatre.  We also had easy access to the four-wheeling trails in the area.  After the day’s activities, we could return home to our peaceful spot, lulled to sleep at night by the burbling river and welcomed each morning by the fog-topped trees.

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