Siouxland’s state parks, Gritchie Manitou State Preserve

12 Jun

This year I began trying to visit a number of state parks and preserves in or near the Siouxland region of northwest Iowa. One I visited earlier this spring is Gritchie Manitou State Preserve which has a nice wide walking trail as well as rock outcroppings, pools of water and a long disused stone lodge that was probably very nice in its day. In the last few years it came to my attention that the State of Iowa is not staffing some parks with personnel like it had in earlier, more monetarily flush periods of time. And that is sad because the outdoors is an inexpensive and nice way to spend a day seeing nature close up. I was impressed with the rock formations. This is what is written about the preserve on a site called the Americas State Parks: “Gitchie Manitou State Preserve is rich in geology, history, and archaeology and is known for its distinctive, smooth, pink outcroppings of Sioux Quartzite. The bedrock in the outcropping is 1.6 billion years old, and is the oldest surface bedrock anywhere in the state. The quartzite on the preserve was mined until the 1920s, and the quarry is now filled with water and knows as “Jasper Pool.” The preserve is home to archaeological sites including 17 conical mounds and numerous Woodland or Great Oasis habituation areas. Also evidence of local history is present on the preserve, with the county’s first post office and land office on the north side of the as part of a short lived settlement called Gibraltar in the 1880s. The building’s foundation can still be seen. There are more than 300 plant species on the preserve, with more than 130 growing on the prairie, like a range of prairie grasses such as leadplant and blue grama. Springtime welcomes wildflowers such as pasqueflower and hoary puccoon before summertime brings forbs like purple prairie clovers. The last flowers of the fall include aromatic aster and dotted gayfeather. Other plant communities thrive in the preserve’s woodlands, wetlands, grasslands and a narrow floodplain. Visitors to the preserve are allowed to hunt. Originally, the area containing Gitchie Manitou State Preseve was classified as a state park, but became a geological, archaeological, historical and biological state preserve in 1969.”

Tucked away in the very northwest corner of the state of Iowa, just across a river is South Dakota. A gentleman who lives in that area wrote a piece about places to hike in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, area, and he is right. It was a nice way to spend a day, even though it took a while to get there from Sioux City, and even though there really are not any signs to guide you there once you leave a main road that travels north. It was partly by chance, with the help of a county map, that I found the park.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux CIty, Iowa


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