Earlier this summer Iowa Governor Terry Branstad visited an area in the far southeast corner of South Dakota that’s known as “Blood Run.”
“We are contemplating the possibility of something that would be pretty unique — having a joint state park between South Dakota and Iowa,” Branstad says.
The area sits along the Big Sioux River and gets its “Blood Run” name from the red color of the river. The area was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1970. South Dakota is calling the park area on its side of the border the “Good Earth” State Park. Branstad attended a dedication ceremony there in mid-July. The adjacent area on the Iowa side of the border is already owned by the state Department of Cultural Affairs.
“It’s a cultural site where a lot of Indian trading took place over the years,” Branstad says.
The area was a gathering place for Native Americans, perhaps as early as 6500 and archaeologists believe it was a “significant” trading center from 1500 to 1700. The Oneota Indians controlled trade of the red stone in the area that was used to make sacred pipes for Native American tribal ceremonies. Historians believe as many as 10,000 Oneota Indians lived in the area at one time, but it was abandoned when the Dakota Sioux seized control of the red stone trade.
The descendants of Oneotas are members of the Ponca and Omaha tribes in Nebraska, some of whom attended the park dedication ceremony in South Dakota in July. Branstad says park planners envision reconstructing an area on the Iowa side of the river where Native American ceremonies were once held.
“We’re working with the Native Americans and the State of South Dakota and the goal would be that we would add an Iowa State Park and a bridge crossing the river so we would then have a joint state park between Iowa and South Dakota,” Branstad says. “That’s still in the study stage, but it’s something that we’re very excited about.”
Burial mounds, jewelry and structures where Native Americans once lived have been found on the Iowa side of the river.
“That is a very unique historic and cultural area in addition to being a beautiful, scenic natural area, so I think it would be just a great asset,” Branstad says. “It is close to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, so I think you would see a lot of visitors — and it’s not too far from Minnesota.”
The State of South Dakota is already developing the 600 acres on its side of the border, with plans for a visitors center and hiking trails. If the plans advance on the Iowa side of the border, “Good Earth” would become the first park in the country to be run jointly by two states.