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GFP News - June 6, 2017


traditions hold strong at 40th annual fort sisseton historical festival

Pierre, S.D. -The 40th annual Fort Sisseton Historical Festival presented visitors with a weekend full of activities, vendors, food and memories. Holding to tradition, the public came out to experience the variety the event offers.

Just over 11,600 visitors took in the three-day event. Uncharacteristically warm, sunny weather was a welcomed break from some of the traditional weather patterns of the last 40 years, according to Fort Sisseton manager Chris Soukup.

"Folks have seen everything from cold, rain and even snow a couple of years," said Soukup. "It was a true blessing to have three days of extraordinarily nice weather for our anniversary year."

Several guests took advantage of the marker year to celebrate past memories and reunite with old friends. "Between past staff that were honored on Saturday and visitors that have been coming to the event since its inception, there were plenty of fantastic stories and memories at every conversation," Soukup noted.

Popular events included military and rendezvous encampments, pie-baking contests, stage performances, muzzle-loading rifle shooting competitions and musical performances.


jay heath canoe and kayak trail public dedication event to be held june 13

Pierre, S.D. - The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) in partnership with the South Dakota Canoe & Kayak Association (SDCKA) will host an event to publicly dedicate the new Jay Heath Canoe & Kayak Trail on Tuesday, June 13, at noon.

"This new water trail showcases the opportunities that exist for canoeing and kayaking on the Big Sioux River," said Travis Theilen, GFP district park supervisor. "The trail provides new signs and maps to assist people in knowing their location while on the water. One of the biggest additions is the online trail map designed to improve navigation for those canoeing or kayaking the Big Sioux River. The online map includes access sites and campgrounds as well as general information about each site."

The public event takes place at the Big Sioux Recreation Area (north canoe access site). The exact address is 300 West Holly Blvd., Brandon, SD and is located 1.25 miles west of the SD Hwy 11/Holly Blvd. intersection. Parking is available in the access site parking area. A park entrance license is not required to access this area of the park.

Immediately following the event, a first-ever Jay Heath Trail Cruise will begin from the north access site at Big Sioux Recreation Area to the south access site at Big Sioux Recreation Area. This is a 2.4 mile cruise and will take approximately one hour.

"We invite those with their own canoe or kayak to participate in this trip," said Theilen. "Those who choose to participate in this activity must know and understand the water elevation and flow of the Big Sioux River. Water current and obstructions do exist. People must have their boat on the shoreline of the access site before noon and ready to go with the proper safety equipment required for recreating on South Dakota waters."

Reservations are required for overnight camping along the trail and can be made online at or through the city and county parks in the state of Iowa. Information about making these camping reservations is highlighted through each access site of the newly developed online trail map. Permits are not required to canoe or kayak on the water trail.

"On behalf of our organization, I want to extend a huge thank you to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks for all of the hard work they have done with this project," said Norwood "Woody" BayBridge, president of the SDCKA. "I believe this water trail will thoroughly enhance the Big Sioux River as a recreational resource for years to come. It has been a pleasure to work together on this beneficial project."

About SDCKA: Established in 1981, the SDCKA is a volunteer based organization, passionate about getting people to explore the waterways in South Dakota. The SDCKA’s mission is to promote paddling education, conservation and safety throughout the rivers, lakes and streams of South Dakota. The SDCKA holds one annual meeting, with members and the public being invited. Most of the other club functions are held on the water.

About Jay Heath: The trail’s namesake, Jay Heath, was a longtime educator and professor in South Dakota and Nebraska. The U.S. Navy and Peace Corps veteran had a lifelong passion for maritime travel, and he was an initial member of the South Dakota Canoe Association that began in the early 1980s. He served on the group’s board and ushered its name change in the early 2000s as it became the South Dakota Canoe and Kayak Association. Before his death in 2014, Heath compiled detail-rich text-and-photo accounts of more than 275 paddling endeavors he made on waterways in southeastern South Dakota. No matter the paddler, event, lake or river, Heath was known widely for his willingness to share information, lend his hand and keen eye with robust assistance or pack up his paddle and kayak for a jaunt on the water. Long before canoes and kayaks were abundant in South Dakota, Heath was contributing to the sport; he was a forerunner who mightily contributed to a passion many now share.


prairie dog control programs available through august 15

Pierre, S.D. - The South Dakota Departments of Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) and Agriculture (SDDA) want to remind South Dakota ranchers and producers to contact either department regarding prairie dog encroachment issues.

"Assistance is available to private landowners through the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks until Aug. 15 to help control prairie dogs that have encroached onto private land from adjacent public land," said Keith Fisk, GFP wildlife damage program administrator.

Landowners who have encroachment problems on their property from adjacent public land must be within one mile of the public land and have at least 10 acres (of actual prairie dog colonies) to be eligible for assistance. Additionally, landowners must register online to request assistance by Aug. 15, 2017. Once eligibility has been verified, GFP will control the invading colony on private land.

Landowners experiencing encroachment from adjoining private land can contact SDDA at any time throughout the year. If the colony is encroaching from private land, a signed written complaint must be completed. There are two methods to file a complaint, the first option is for the landowner to sign a letter of complaint and mail it to the local county weed and pest board. The second method requires a formal complaint by calling 1.800.228.5254 or by completing an online form at

The state’s prairie dog control program is cooperatively operated by the GFP and SDDA. GFP manages encroachment issues on private lands which have been encroached from adjacent public lands, while the SDDA manages complaints between private landowners. For additional questions about the program and how landowners can receive assistance, please contact GFP at 605.773.5913. The South Dakota Prairie Dog Management Plan is available online at:


GFP Mission: The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks provides sustainable outdoor recreational opportunities through responsible management of our state’s parks, fisheries and wildlife by fostering partnerships, cultivating stewardship and safely connecting people with the outdoors.

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