605 Outdoor Wonders: Falls Park
By Anna Stritecky
Images courtesy of Siouxfalls.org
The next outdoor gem to be explored is Sioux Falls’ own Falls Park. This park’s central feature is not only what gave Sioux Falls its name, but what has kept tourists coming to the city to see the rushing water flow down the rocks.
The Falls of the Big Sioux River have been a focus of life in the region throughout history. Native American peoples were the first to visit the falls and bring stories of them to European explorers. They have been the center of recreation and industry since the founding of the city in 1856.
Alongside the natural falls, there is a building that overlooks the water, originally the Queen Bee Mill. The quartzite building still standing on the east bank is the Sioux Falls Light and Power Company building, completed in 1908. The building housed three 500-kilowatt hydroelectric generators and used the dam and the millrace from the Queen Bee Mill. In subsequent years the plant added additional coal-fired steam generators. The plant was abandoned in 1974 and donated to the city in 1977. Before remodeling took place to create what is now Falls Overlook Cafe, the building was in similar condition as when it was first constructed.
Even though I have been to the Falls, which now seems like hundreds of times, I took a trip downtown all by myself, hoping to take in something that I hadn’t before. Despite the beauty of the rocks and the calming sounds of the rushing water, I felt as if what the falls had to offer grasped the essence of Sioux Falls. Walking Into the visitor’s center you see nothing but the friendly faces of the employees, shortly before you climb the stairs and get easily one of the best views in Sioux Falls. These falls, even though what might seem as just another attraction, has the power of unity for the city it inhabits. Alongside that, the park itself carries many paths and trails that surround it allowing any tourist to appreciate the land.