South Dakota’s Beaver Creek Nature Area

The Beaver Creek Nature Area in South Dakota was created to give residents and visitors a place to relax and enjoy the natural resources of this part of the state. Visitors can hike along spring-fed Beaver creek that winds through the area throughout the year. The clear waters add a lovely melody to the songs of the birds and the hum of the wind through the lowland and upland forests. Elms, Bur Oak and Hackberry trees shade the hills and provide plenty of places for the birds and animals of the area to live.

Almost two miles of gravel/limestone or dirt trails wind through these forests and down into the prairies of the area, providing visitors with plenty of opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of this part of South Dakota. Squirrels and rabbits abound in the park, and keen-eyed visitors may see raccoons, woodchucks, or even skunks. But the creek and the park were named for the beaver that live in the area. Once one of the most plentiful residents of the area, beaver still build dams across the creek, and their webbed tracks can be found along the damp banks. In the early morning or at dusk, whitetail deer can be seen moving through the prairie grasses. There are even fox in the park, and they can occasionally be seen hunting rabbits and mice.

Many of the birds that populate the area enjoy feeding on the purple fruit of the numerous grapevines that grow there. Almost tree-like, the grapevines in the Beaver Creek Nature Area are some of the largest in the state. Other plants that grow in the area include the Virginia Creeper and Moonseed, which is poisonous and should be admired from a distance.

In addition to nature-watching opportunities, each year the park hosts the Homesteader Day Harvest Festival on the Sunday after Labor Day. This free event allows visitors to experience living history through pioneer crafts such as spinning and weaving, and old-fashioned farming exhibitions such as plowing and harvesting. Guests can participate in candle or rope making, listen to fiddlers, and enjoy plenty of delicious food as they stroll through the area. There are even reenactments of the lives of cowboys and Civil War soldiers in the area. Learning about life when the Dakota Territory was settled a century ago has never been so enjoyable. One of the most popular sites is the log home of John and Anna Samuelson. Completed in 1872, this home of solid oak logs remains strong and sturdy, and provides visitors with an up-close look at the life of the pioneers.

No fee is charged to enter the park or take part in the Homesteader Day Harvest Festival. The Beaver Creek Nature Area is located near the town of Brandon. From the intersection of 484th Avenue and 264th Street, head west about half a mile to reach the park. For more information on the Beaver Creek Nature Area, go to http://gfp.sd.gov/state-parks/directory/beaver-creek/.