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The Upper Sioux Agency State Park is one of the least-visited state parks in the State. Located in southern Minnestoa.
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.
11 Things to do at Upper Sioux Agency State Park
Relax on the Prairie
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 open 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.
Make sure to download the Avaza Map before you go. Cell phone coverage at the park is spotty and the hiking club trail signs to do not align with the map.
I’m guessing one was changed and not updated everywhere. The mileage is consistent, and you should still find the password with either map. It is a great hike to do!
In case your keeping track with us, here are the latest hiking club stats:
Miles: 3.5 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 29.5 miles
Ride 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 part of the Minnesota River Valley with views of both the Minnesota and Yellow Medicine 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. *Currently Closed
Let Fireflies Light Your Way
The wet weather with the prairies of Upper Sioux Agency State Park makes it the perfect habitat for fireflies. Every night we were there, they came out in masses dancing along the sky.
The only other Minnesota State Park I’ve seen this at is Myre Big Island State Park.
I made the mistake of joining a friend at their fire one night and forgot a flashlight. Thankfully it hadn’t gotten too dark, but the fireflies danced around me the whole way back to our campsite.
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 established an Indian agency and 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 at the start of the US Dakota War of 1862.
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.
Explore the Natural Playgrounds
Kids’ playgrounds have gotten a little stiff in my books. What I love are the natural playgrounds that are making their way back to MN State Parks.
We first came across it at Blue Mounds State Park so we were excited to see it make its way to Upper Sioux Agency State Park too. The kids will have a blast!
A Changing Landscape
The reason for its large detour between camps is because of some underground land changes. Highway 67 has had a giant sinkhole in it since 2019.
When the glaciers came down and shaped our region, they dropped off a layer of clay and sand 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.
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 stamps 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.
The Minnesota Legislature has approved a transfer of Upper Sioux Agency to the Upper Sioux Community. There are several barriers to the transfer of the land that they’ll need to overcome. But for now, you can still visit the park.