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June 30, 2014 09:55 PM

Palisades Pilgrimage

Our recent flooding has narrowed some of the camping options ahead of the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Palisades State Park near Garretson expects campers to trickle in after being diverted by the broken dam that's closed Blue Mounds State Park in Luverne, Minnesota.  Palisades is welcoming the anticipated inflow of new visitors from across the border.

Palisades State Park is a lush oasis in the midst of a storm-battered landscape.

"It's beautiful.  I think everybody's a little shocked by the fact that there could be a horrible storm any minute, but, it's South Dakota," camper Rodney Bergeson said.

Palisades didn't escape flood damage altogether.  Overflow from Split Rock Creek left the park's hiking trails underwater. 

"But once the water recedes, we go through and clean them up and they're usually ready to go in a few days.  There's maybe some muddy spots but they accessible then,"  District Park Supervisor Travis Theilen said.

Palisades served as a rainy-day refuge for campers who were chased out of Brandon's Big Sioux Recreation Area by flooding.

"A lot of folks that we had coming into Big Sioux, we get a lot of local use there as well, so I'm guessing there were some lives that were affected by flooding of personal homes and things," Theilen said.

Palisades expects campers who would normally trek to flood-damaged Blue Mounds State Park twenty miles away  to come here instead.

"There's going to be some changed vacation plans and I think this is a location where we can bring a lot of folks in for a wide assortment of day-use activities,"  Theilen said.

Campsites are booked solid through the Fourth of July weekend.  But there's plenty of room for dayside visitors over the holiday.  Yet, getting them here took some convincing, at first.

"Initially, that very week following that major rainfall event, we had a lot of phone calls from folks that were concerned and curious about their vacation plans and I expected that and we handled those calls, Theilen said.

Palisades has a lot of built-in advantages when it comes to flood control that other parks don't.  Whenever the Split Rock Creek goes over its banks, it has no impact on the campers who are safely tucked away at their campsites high above the banks.

"It's a little sanctuary, it is.  It's quite a bit higher than the river, and also to have a cabin, these other brave people are in tents, but I prefer a little bit of air-conditioning," Bergeson said.

The stormy summer has put many vacation plans on hold.  But Palisades expects visitor numbers to rebound with the arrival of drier weather. For families facing flood damage, the cure for cabin fever won't arrive until cleanup is complete.   

"There's a lot of personal lives impacted from this and I think once all that straightens out and settles down, we'll start to see a little more use than normal," Theilen said.

All camping reservations at Blue Mounds State Park in Minnesota are cancelled through July 13th. 

If you'd like to book a campsite at Palisades, visit CampSD.com.

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