U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Grand River National Grassland

South Dakota

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Grassland Information

The Grand River National Grassland (NG) located in northwest South Dakota and one of four grasslands in the Dakota Prairie Grasslands, is 155,000 acres interspersed with 46,000 acres of private lands - see map below. There are no developed campgrounds. The grassland is administered by the Dakota Prairie Grasslands office. The authors visited Grand River during July 2009.

The Missouri Plateau of the Great Plains is a combination of rolling hills, river breaks, and scattered badlands. Mixed grass prairies dominate this landscape. Wooded draws occur where ground water is near the surface. Winding through this landscape is the Grand River on its way to the Missouri River. Farms and small communities dot the area and this is where Grand River National Grassland (NG) is located.

Although there are no developed campgrounds in the Grand River NG, there are a wide variety of recreational opportunities available. Wildlife viewing, rock hounding, photography, birdwatching, hiking, and horseback riding are just a few activities visitors to Grand River NG can enjoy. One popular location to picnic, fish for Rainbow trout, and explore the eight-mile Blacktail trail, is at the Blacktail trailhead, south of Lemmon, SD, along State Route 73.

Most visitors to the Grand River National Grassland see its beauty but don't realize the history that took place there. The native people wandered across this land, hunting and gathering the bounty of the prairie. In the early 1800s, the white man come. One of those was Hugh Glass. This scout, trapper, hunter, Indian fighter, and adventurer, was seriously mauled by a grizzly bear in 1823. The story goes Glass was left by his companions for dead but he wasn't. After re-setting his broken leg and making a crude carriage that he used to drag himself along on two elbows and a knee, Glass traveled overland some 100 miles in two months to the Cheyenne River. Here he fashioned a dugout and floated down the Cheyenne River to Ft. Kiowa were he completed his recovery. Another colorful character who traveled through the area was General Custer on his way to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The areas now designated as "grasslands" were settled in the 1800s under a variety of "Homestead Acts" which opened the land to people, generally farmers, and helped to settle the west. A prolonged period of drought in the late 1920s into the 1930s caused some homesteads on sub-marginal farmland (a location receiving 15 or less inches of annual moisture) to literally dry up and blow away. During this time, Congress established the Land Utilization Program (LUP) which bought homesteads from bankrupt private owners and returned it to public land status. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helped to stabilize the eroding soil by re-seeding it and applying other conservation techniques. In the 1950s, the LUP holdings were assigned to the USDA Forest Service which was tasked with management of these sub-marginal lands. Over the years the Forest Service has established some twenty national grasslands. "The designation of the area as National Grassland is not a description of the area as much as a statement of policy and effort to restore the area to a multiple of uses and benefits."

There are no restrictions on dispersed camping within the Grand River NG. Campers should bring their own water and firewood and practice "Leave no Trace" techniques. One possible location is in Pasture 8 (GPS coordinates - N45 43.152, W102 15.355). Recreational opportunities in the Grand River National Grassland may not be highly developed but that does not reduce the potential for making your own fun and discovering all that a grassland has to offer.

Map of Dakota Prairie Grasslands

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 2000 Miriam Circle Bismarck, North Dakota 58501 701-989-7300 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESS Grand River 1005 5th Ave West Lemmon, South Dakota 57638 605-374-3592

Fred and Suzi Dow