Guided tours are now underway at a scenic and historic corner of South Dakota that may eventually become a state park. Blood Run Nature Area offers visitors a chance explore the lush landscape that attracted thousands of Native Americans centuries ago. We hit the trail southeast of Sioux Falls for a walk through.
"I think this place is fabulous," Blood Run Naturalist Edward Raventon said.
South Dakota pre-history and natural history merge along the rolling hills of Blood Run.
"It's a real powerful sense of being alive," Raventon said.
Raventon has worked at state parks around the country, but he says Blood Run Nature Area, straddling the Big Sioux River, is second to none.
"This is a very old community of creatures here that possess, I would say, a deep wisdom of natural cycles," Raventon said.
Blood Run was an ancient Indian settlement that reached its peak with the Oneota culture more than 300 years ago.
"At about 1675, this particular community was at its high point, we believe there were probably 10,000 people, if not more, living in this vicinity on both sides of the river," Raventon said.
Blood Run has been a National Historic Landmark for more than 40 years. Now it awaits legislative approval to become South Dakota's first new state park in a half-century.
"We're not really ready for park visitors per se, but we did want to get it open as soon as possible so that people could enjoy this wonderful nature area," Raventon said.
Each Saturday morning, Raventon leads tourists along trails through the native prairie grasses to overlooks that include vistas of majestic oak.
"Many of the trees here pre-date the founding of the city of Sioux Falls and the state of South Dakota," Raventon said.
Raventon doesn't need a map to find his way around Blood Run. He merely stretches out his hand and has nature at his fingertips.
"Imagine all your fingers being ridges that go out east towards the river and then imagine the area between your fingers as being the ravines and you have a pretty good idea of the topography and the landscape," Raventon said.
This is one of the highlight destinations of the tour: a bend of the Big Sioux River that flows gently by, overflowing with what Raventon calls "earth energy."
"The power of that river is pretty amazing. I want to be able to stand on there and listen to the water and hear the birds and feel all that energy," Raventon said.
A tour can last up to two hours to scope out scenery that glaciers carved-out thousands of years ago. Visitors can tap into that "earth energy" Raventon speaks about and leave the park with a sense of wonder at the designs of this paradise in the prairie.
"Maybe you might want to think about is coming out here and looking at the blueprints of nature again and getting yourself realigned to those blueprints," Raventon said.
Visitors can always stop by and hike through Blood Run. But to get a guided tour, you need to make a reservation by calling The Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls.