After spending her childhood visiting countless parks, Taniya Bethke now works with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks as a division staff specialist-education and R3 coordinator. From kayaking and hiking to her favorite places to stop for a bite, Bethke shared a peek into her life in Pierre.
Summers, Sunsets, and Snark
In the summers, a group of my friends and I do a sunset run down the Missouri River. We put our kayaks in at Oahe Dam and take [them] out at the causeway that leads out to La Framboise Island. The whole run is two to three hours and is usually filled with snark, stories, and lots of laughter. If you don’t have a kayak, check in with Endless River Paddling for kayak and paddleboard rentals, as well as dropoff and pickup if you need it.
I play softball for a team called Bat Intentions, and we like to head to The Fieldhouse Sports & Spirits for a cold one to wash down the dust after our games. Their buffalo wings and bartenders are full of sass, their TVs are perfect for game night, and their live music lineup is everything you could ask for.
5 Random Facts
+ Cheesy horror flicks and science fiction/fantasy novels are a big part of what makes this world great. Army of Darkness will always be one of the best movies to quote to my husband at random, inopportune moments.
+ I’m named after Lake Tenaya in Yosemite National Park. They didn’t have Google when I was born, so my mom just made up the spelling. It’s a gorgeous mountain lake between granite peaks and flowing alpine meadows. Ansel Adams photographed the park in the 1940s.
+ My grandmother wrote her first book when she was 87, and she started swearing that same year. She was a naturalist writer, and she never really did get a handle on a good, solid cuss. She knew I loved to draw and photograph wildlife, so she asked me to illustrate the book.
+ In both my personal and professional lives, I am super passionate about diversity and inclusion. I work hard to make conservation, outdoor recreation, education, hunting, and angling accessible to people of all races, abilities, genders, and lifestyles. There is a big hill to climb before we see proper representation in those activities, but it is a hill well worth climbing.
+ During major life events, including our honeymoon in Isle Royale National Park, my husband will pull out one of those dental lip/cheek spacers from who knows where, put it in so no one can understand him and emphatically slobber his way through attempting to say, “It’s a Bethke! Family! Tradition!” Yep, ladies, he’s all mine.
Growing up, my family would road trip across the country to visit every possible state, national, and provincial park we could see. Badlands National Park remains one of the most beautiful national parks I have ever seen. It’s stark, stunning, colorful, and awe-inspiring every single time I visit.
Starlight, Star Bright, Wander the Grasslands Tonight
Hiking, fishing, stargazing, and wildlife watching are the best ways to pass the time and enjoy some peace and quiet. To get away from it all, I love going to the Fort Pierre National Grassland. The stock dams are outstanding for panfish. The solitude is second to none. Though just a short distance from Pierre, the night skies are out of this world with very little light pollution, and the rolling hills and uninterrupted views are prime for wildlife watching and photography.
Piggyback (pack) Rides
My husband and I will pop our daughter in a backpack and head out on backcountry trails. Here around Pierre, we might hit the mountain biking single track trails along Lake Oahe near the emergency spillway. The views are unbelievable, and my daughter loves being packed around the river breaks.
“THREE YEARS INTO THIS ADVENTURE, AND I NOW HAVE A SHOTGUN NAMED VERA, A FLY ROD NAMED LONGMIRE, A BOW NAMED FLICKA, AND A RIFLE NAMED BRUCE.”
Prime Rib Over the
Cattleman’s Club Steakhouse is an amazing steak joint out on Highway 34. The patio overlooks the Missouri River and rolling hills bordering the river valley. I always order the same dish when I head to Cattleman’s because it is the absolute best in town: Prime Rib with horseradish. Oh. My. God.
Hiking the river breaks along Lake Oahe on a lazy fall afternoon, shooting my bow on the Oahe Downstream Archery Course, or watching the insane number of Canadian geese soar overhead as my friends and I hunker down to stay warm in the Lower Oahe Waterfowl Access Area goose pits, are all annual celebrations of how much I love the water, land, and wildlife in this state. My love of those resources drove me to develop the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks’ comprehensive learn-to-hunt program named Harvest SD.
I love lazy Sunday mornings. I’ll go for a walk along Lewis & Clark Trail that follows the Missouri River not far from downtown and end up at Gallo’s Mexican Grill and Taqueria for a late brunch. They serve up some seriously delicious, authentic Mexican food. I’m in love with their Huevos Rancheros.
Register for Harvest SD Sessions in Varying Towns
Learn how to scout, shoot, harvest, process, and cook wild game.
+ Next Event: Fort Pierre Wildlife Office
+ When: November 9,12, or 14
+ More info: gfp.sd.gov/education
Some days I need a change of scenery to get a little work done. I’ll bring my laptop over to Branding Iron Bistro and start drooling the instant I see their Monte Cristo sandwich special. They also have an incredible chocolate selection that I can’t get enough of.