The Upper Sioux Agency State Park is one of the least-visited state parks in the State. It could have something to do with a massive detour between the Visitors Center and Campground, the bugs, flooding or maybe it’s because no one thing to visit Western MN. There is a strong desire to go north to getaway. But everyone should head west instead.
9 Things you didn’t know about the Upper Sioux Agency State Park
The Perfect Escape
The biggest draw to the Upper Sioux Agency State Park campground is getting cut off and escaping everything. If you can get a spot on the outside edge of the campground, there is a good chance you may not see your neighbors. The site we were at, had no obstructions to worry about. The site we were at, 29E had undisturbed views of the prairie.
If that wasn’t enough, there was limited cell service in the valley, so the temptation to jump on your phone and surf Facebook is gone. Instead, I took the time to lay back and enjoy the sounds of the prairie, including the faint sounds of cows from a nearby property. The crickets were chirping in full harmony and the fireflies came out each night.
Sleep in a Tipi
The Upper Sioux Agency has a long history with people camping in this area. One of the most recognizable features of the park is the Tipis. They are scattered throughout the campground. They are set up to remind people of the indigenous Native American’s who once camped the same way here 100s of years ago. Visitors can reserve one through the State Parks website, similarly, to how you reserve a camping spot.
Go on a Hiking Club Trail
The State Park Hiking Club Trail takes hikers the entire length of the park, into both prairie and wooded areas. The hike is hilly, buggy and beautiful all at the same time. We had a very easy time finding the password, but I’ve heard from others that they walked right by it. To make sure you do not miss it, go counter-clockwise on the trail. You can start either at the Visitors Center or by the Yellow Medicine campground.
In case your keeping track with us, here are the latest hiking club stats:
Miles: 3.5 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 29.5 miles
Rind on a Horse Trails
The entire region is home to a lot of equestrian trails all through the park. In addition, the Upper Sioux Agency State Parks has 45 campsites if you have a horse. If you plan on doing some hiking, keep an eye out. Though most people are very good within the park at cleaning up, outside of the park is a different story.
Camp Between Two Rivers
The park is in between the Yellow Medicine River and the Minnesota River. Both Rivers have flooded a record number of times in the area. This year, the campgrounds have both come close to being underwater. The week before I visited, the river had flooded again and come close taking over the Yellow Medicine campground. Within a week, the water receded and we could hardly tell. But the Riverside Campground has been underwater most of the season. If you are planning on camping there, consider making the decision last minute and watch out for postings on the park’s website.
The Minnesota River is a popular spot to fish, as many were taking advantage. Fishing there does not require a license if you are an MN Resident and remain on the shoreline. Depending on the time of day, you may need a can of bug spray.
The Upper Sioux Agency State Park Visitor Center
Inside the Visitors Center is an Interpretive Center. They have space especially for kids to play and do some touch and feel options. On the other side of the centers are the fragile displays behind glass. They have a collection of maps and detail about the US-Dakota Conflict. It’s a good way to spend some time.
History Comes Alive
The land the Upper Agency State Park is on the area where the Dakota people were given after the treaty of 1851 and 1858. The government at the time wanted to assimilate them into English-Speaking members of society. So they built homes, schools, and jails for the government employees in the area. It was short-lived and during the US–Dakota War the buildings were burned down. But one remained and was rebuilt. This still remains on the property today.
Much of the area pays tribute to the area around the State Park pays tribute to the conflict. A short ways away, there are two separate monuments to pay tribute to those that lost their lives in the conflict. One interesting thing was that Dakota’s didn’t consider the conflict a defeated since some lived to fight another day.
Friendly Park Rangers
One of the biggest surprises was how friendly the camp hosts were, and the park rangers. We stopped once to talk with everyone and it was hard to walk away. They know so much about the area. I had one park ranger even stop me just to say Hi and find out how I liked everything. In all my years of camping, I’ve never had that happen.
A Changing Landscape
The reason for its large detour between camps is because of some underground land changes. Minnesota and this region is experiencing the 5th wettest year in its history. When the glaciers came down and shaped our region, it dropped off a layer of clay and sand behind creating the prairie we see today. It’s also what’s causing the changing landscape. With all the rain, the clay and sand are breaking apart creating multiple different fissures on the road. The roadway connecting the Visitors Center and the Campground is closed because of unsafe conditions. The city doesn’t think they’ll have it repaired until 2020.
We found this to be a big inconvenience, requiring a 16-minute detour around the closure to get to the Upper Sioux Agency State Park office. One nice thing is that they don’t require you to check-in at the park office if you made a reservation online. There are no dump stations, or potable water fill-ups so we did not need to do the detour. We stopped by to get our passport stamp and see the rest of the sights.
Other things to do
I highly recommend you visit Granite Falls. There were tons of different things to do nearby. Like visiting the falls, or even the Fagen Fighters WWII Museum. For a small town, they have a lot to see and different ways to explore.