Perry Nature Area

Posted: Monday, September 10, 2007 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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Shhhhh. 
Can you keep a secret?
 
There’s a beautiful little out-of-the way spot just east of Sioux Falls where you can go for a picnic, a quiet walk, or do some historic exploration.
The best part? It’s free and hardly anybody goes there or even knows it exists!
You’ll have the place pretty much to yourself.
 
Linda and I discovered the Perry Nature Area last summer while out for a ride on the motorcycle. We couldn’t get over how peaceful and quiet it was even though it’s only a short distance from busy highway 42.
 
A single gravel road winds down a small hill and into a lovely shaded park complete with an old bridge that crosses a babbling brook. No kidding, you can actually hear it babble.
It’s located about a mile east of Willow Run golf course across the road from Arrowhead Park..another gem of a place.
 
Perry Nature Area was once the site of East Sioux Falls..a small town made up mostly of families who worked in the nearby Sioux quartzite quarries during the late 1800’s. The pink granite, some of the hardest stone in the world, was in high demand all over the country for use as a building material and street pavers.
The town thrived for awhile. There was a general store, a school, hotel, post office, grain elevator and, of course, a couple saloons. 
East Sioux Falls, late 1800′s before the treesBut by the early 1900’s, demand for Sioux quartzite fizzled-out and most of the 600 people who lived in East Sioux Falls moved on.
A man named George Perry was the last one to own the site.  
A century later, his descendants still owned the property and decided to donate it to Minnehaha County which has spent the last 8 years transforming the area into the lovely tranquil spot it is today.
That was no small task because a lot of the early East Sioux Falls residents had used it as a dump ground.
Most just rented their houses from the mining company so there wasn’t a whole lot of pride in ownership.
They apparently thought nothing of just tossing their trash and junk out the back door and down the hill.
The biggest challenge to making Perry Nature Area safe and presentable has been cleaning up 100 years of discarded rusty old cans, broken glass and other refuse.
Although most of the antique garbage has been removed, it’s still a good idea to wear shoes while exploring the 23 acre former town.
But a few folks who lived in East Sioux Falls did leave something else for us to remember them by besides trash…trees and FLOWERS.
A bellflower probably planted by a quarry worker’s wifePerennials still pop-up each spring throughout the park.
I’m told they were likely planted in backyards by the wives of the miners in order to bring a little color into their drab lives.
 
I’m also told that Perry Nature Area is great for bird watching although I’ve not seen any ornithologists out there taking notes and photos but I have seen a great variety of feathered creatures.
Many of them fill the branches of a huge Burr Oak tree that’s reported to be the second oldest Burr Oak in the state.
Well, I’ve probably said enough about this fascinating place but if you go there, remember don’t tell anybody.
We’ll keep it our little secret.

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