South Dakota Road Trip – Headed East:  Part I Back »

“Look for chances to take the less-traveled roads. There are no wrong turns.” This is a quote from Susan Magsamen, author of The 10 Best of Everything Families: An Ultimate Guide for Travelers. A few weeks ago, my parents and I decided to take this advice and instead of leaving South Dakota for a little vacation as we usually do, we decided to visit places on the very eastern side of South Dakota that we have never seen before. After all, South Dakota’s number 2 industry is tourism and we couldn’t think of a reason we couldn’t be tourists in our own back yard.

We left my hometown of Highmore, in central South Dakota, and rather than taking US Highway 14 or I-90 as we usually do, we headed straight south on SD Highway 47 to get on SD Highway 34. As we were headed east on 34, we neared Wessington Springs and my dad asked if I had ever been to Shakespeare Garden. As a native South Dakota who grew up only about 75 miles from Wessington Springs, I was ashamed to say that I hadn’t but was happy when we turned into town so I could check it out.

Ann Hathaway’s Cottage and the Shakespeare Gardens in Wessington Springs, SD.

Wow! The beautiful bright flowers in the gardens surrounding Anne Hathaway Cottage, South Dakota’s only thatched roof building, had me feeling I was in another country rather than just a few miles down the road. After spending time exploring and taking pictures, it was time to get back on the road. Our journey was just beginning. We visited about how often we drive by so many communities and miss the things that make our South Dakota communities special. From that point, we decided we would drive down Main Street and explore every town on our route.

If I wrote about every community we drove through or stopped in, this would be a very long article, so for the communities I do not mention, I apologize now. Each and every community had something unique that made it worth a stop and potentially a destination on future road trips. Our next stop was Woonsocket, “the town with the beautiful lake” and a beautiful lake it is! The area around the lake is well maintained and no doubt makes residents of other communities at bit jealous that they don’t have a beautiful little like in the center of their town.

As we continued east on 34, we wondered if we were too early for Forestburg melons and when we saw a load of melons, we had our answer. This, of course, required a stop at Forestburg to purchase one of their famous, delicious watermelons.

A big load of Forestburg watermelons is a beautiful site!

Winfred is a community that I had driven past before, but just what is in Winfred? We knew the school located on Main Street had been closed for years; however we didn’t expect to see a well-kept former school building with landscaping and flowers out front as we drove by. The former school is home to A.H Meyer and Sons, Inc., a beekeeping operation that has been based in Winfred for over 50 years! It was refreshing to see that building maintained so well and serve as a reminder that once a school closes, the building can serve other purposes and continue to be an asset to the community.

In my opinion, Garretson is a community everyone should visit. Garretson is the home Devil’s Gulch Park and if you know South Dakota history, chances are good you have heard the story of how outlaw Jesse James was chased by a posse after he and Frank robbed a bank in Northfield, Minnesota. As Frank and Jesse were being pursued, they separated to take different routes and meet up later. Legend says that Jesse jumped a gorge that is 18-ft wide and escaped (pictured left). We were able to walk on a bridge over Devil’s Gulch so our crossing wasn’t nearly as stressful as Jesse’s must have been! While there, we were able to take a walking tour of Devil’s Gulch Park and were so impressed by the beauty of the area. It is amazing that there is rolling prairie with cornfields right up to the edges of the quartzite cliffs that drop down 50 feet on both sides of Split Rock Creek. Garretson is also home to Palisades State Park where we were able to follow numerous hiking trails up and down the quartzite formations for some breathtaking views. You will want to take plenty of pictures while you are visiting Garretson.

Just one side of Dell Rapids’ Historic Main Street.

We had heard about Dell Rapids’ Historic Main Street so headed into Dell Rapids to do a little sight-seeing and grab some lunch. Many of the big old buildings in Dell Rapids are occupied so they are well kept and worth a walk up and down the street. The Dell Rapids Museum happened to be open so we entered a fabulous old building that had housed a large department store. The person staffing the museum shared the history of the building and the surrounding area. And, as happens so often when we travel across South Dakota, we are reminded that our entire state is like a friendly, small town. Through our visiting, we learned that the museum guide had attended college with my dad’s cousin and they had lost touch with each other so we were able to help them connect again.

What a wonderful, busy two days for us! Taking the road less traveled allowed us to take the time to slow down and enjoy the beauty surrounding our small communities. There is so much we miss when we stay on I-90 or I-29 or when we head to the river or the Black Hills, thinking that is all there is to see in South Dakota. We met friendly people and visit fabulous sites at each of our stops and I would visit each of those places again.

And better yet, our journey wasn’t over. We were headed to the northeast part of the state where more adventure was waiting for us. I hope you join me by reading my next article: South Dakota Road Trip – Headed East: Part II.

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