Much like the recently revitalized maker movement, South Dakotans are realizing that outdoor skills aren’t to be taken for granted. They are a part of our state’s culture and have practical, real-world applications. South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks special projects coordinator Emilie Miller explains how this month’s Outdoor University and Capitol Campout events keep us in touch with our wild side.

In a nutshell, what are the Outdoor University and Capital Campout events?

Emilie Miller: Outdoor University features numerous skill stations and booths where families can get hands-on experience with a variety of outdoor activities. Capitol Campout lets families tent camp for two nights on the Capitol lawn, turning it into a whole weekend of fun in the outdoors. Both events seek to introduce participants to new ways to enjoy the outdoors.

Why do you think these events will resonate with South Dakotans?

EM: Even with South Dakota becoming more and more urban, our state has a strong connection to nature, with the outdoors playing important roles in much of our culture, traditions and history. People want to share that connection with the next generation and learn new activities they can do together as a family. Many of the state’s exceptional outdoor spaces are preserved as national, state and local parks, and we want to introduce folks to all the wonderful ways they can enjoy them.

Why do the campout at the Capitol and not some campground?

EM: Capital Campout originated as a national initiative two years ago as a way to connect with urban families in the state’s capital city. Each state’s governor plays a role in the event, and hosting it on the Capitol grounds makes it a unique and attention-getting experience. Our event expands that original vision even further to include Outdoor University, where non-campers can enjoy the activities too. It looks like ours will be one of the largest Capital Campout events in the nation, taking place over two nights and with about 100 families (450 campers) participating, all on the Capitol grounds.

What are some of the specific events taking place?

EM: Outdoor University includes kayaking, canoeing, fishing, rock climbing, shooting, archery, outdoor cooking and more. You can touch fish, turtles and frogs, watch hunting dogs demonstrate their skills, climb in a conservation officer’s truck, try on lifejackets. It features activities for the whole family – even the littlest outdoors-people can get in on the fun. Those staying overnight with Capital Campout will participate in nightly programs, including making stick bread and s’mores.

Do you need to RSVP? How much does it cost?

EM: Registration for Capital Campout is full, but Outdoor University is free to attend and you can come and go throughout the event; no need to pre-register.

Outdoor University and Capitol Campout run June 10-12. For more info, visit

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