Wednesday August 25 through August 26, 2021
Travel today will only be 160 something miles. We like to leave early, like 8 or 9 am. Check in time at Memorial Park, Watertown SD is 4pm. Do you see a problem here?
One way to solve the problem is to leave a lot later, like in the afternoon. That won’t happen. Another is to find places to visit along the way. We chose the latter. Hey Jil, How’d you like to visit a historic fort? Sure, Mike! Let’s go! The fort is about 30 miles off our route but that’s OK. We like seeing new country.
We turn west off of I-29 at Sisseton, SD. The city of 2400 is the seat of Roberts County. It’s named for the Sisseton division of the Native American Sioux. The towns in the Dakotas are extremely clean and well kept and Sisseton is no exception.
Nocollet Tower- One can see 35 miles from the top of the tower
The topography has changed since leaving the flat plains of North Dakota. Rolling, green hillsides are the norm with many small lakes scattered between them.
Fort Sisseton is sorta out in the middle of nowhere. A pleasant 30 minute drive down country lanes and both of our GPS machines, Miss Smartypants and Miss Garmin lead us to a fella’s farm! Nope, that ain’t it. We continue about a half mile down the road arriving at the fort grounds. Fort Sisseton was established in 1864 to restrict hostile warriors and to defend the travel routes to gold fields in Idaho and Montana. It is considered to be one of the best preserved South Dakota forts. The fort is mostly constructed of local material unlike many. The fort was never attacked, yet impacted the advancement of settlers across America. The soldiers kept the peace between local tribes and taught them how to be self-sufficient- at least the white man’s way of being self-sufficient.
The fort was abandoned in 1889, before South Dakota became a state. All but 32 acres of the 82,000 military reservation that contained the fort’s buildings were leased by the new state of South Dakota to farmers and settlers. In the early 1900’s a prosperouse newspaper man, Colonel W.D. Boyce leased the fort and made a hunting lodge out of the main buildings. At the end of the hunting season Boyce would host a grand ball in the North Barracks where everyone, including the locals, were invited.
The history of the fort is long, sometimes glamorous, and many times not. During WWII land around the fort was least for air to ground bombing range. 15 men lived at the fort to report hits and misses from observation towers located around the fort. After the war the fort was leased to a seed company who used it for storage and public dances and roller skating.
We enjoyed visiting the fort and continue to our home for two nights Codington Memorial Park camping area. Turns out there are two Memorial Parks and two camping areas about 5 miles apart. Miss Garmin takes us to the wrong one…. sigh…. We get turned around and pull into the park farthest from Watertown. The park is beautiful. Our site has full hookups and is no farther than 50′ from Lake Kampeska, the largest natural lake in South Dakota. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, I’ll tell you what can go wrong. This morning we wake up to a severe weather advisory which upgrades into a severe weather warning. 60 mile per hour winds, large hail the size of nickles and downpours are predicted. We got the wind at 75mph, the rain but no hail thankfully. I tried to download a video of the action- rain blowing sideways and trees swaying violently but it wouldn’t download.
After the storm passed late in the morning we visited the city of Watertown, seat of Codington County. The city of nearly 22,000 souls was founded in 1878 as a rail terminus. It proves to be another beautiful downtown and residential district.
The city is home to the Redlin Arts Center. Terry Redlin, a home grown Watertownian, is frequently named “America’s most popular artist”. His popularity arrives from painting outdoor themes and wildlife. The arts center houses over 150 of Redlin’s works of art. He’s known for his donations to raise funds for conservation, including a record $28 million for Ducks Unlimited.
Redlin Art Museum
I leave you with a wonderful memorial to those who serve our country………….