The Falls of the Big Sioux River have been a focus of life in the region throughout history. Native American peoples were the first to visit the falls and bring stories of them to European explorers. They have been the center of recreation and industry since the founding of the city in 1856.
At Falls Park, located at North Phillips Avenue and Falls Park Drive, visitors can see the city's namesake as well as some of the first buildings built in Sioux Falls.
Today the park covers 123 acres. An average of 7,400 gallons of water drop 100 feet over the course of the Falls each second. To view a virtual tour of the park click here.
Queen Bee Mill
The remains of the seven-story Queen Bee Mill, a brainchild of Richard Pettigrew, lie on the east side of the river. In the fall of 1878 Pettigrew decided Sioux Falls needed its own mill so farmers could avoid the cost of shipping wheat to Minnesota or Wisconsin. Pettigrew acquired the land and then traveled east to locate an investor: New Jersey capitalist George I. Seney.
The mill opened on Oct. 25, 1881, and consisted of a seven-story main structure built of Sioux Quartzite quarried on site. Nearly $500,000 was spent on the construction of the state-of-the-art mill and its supporting structures. At the time of its construction, the mill was one of the most advanced in America. The mill could process 1,500 bushels each day. However, by 1883, the mill was closed - a victim of inadequate water power and a short supply of wheat.
Several companies tried in vain to make the mill a success in succeeding years. In 1929 it was converted into a warehouse. On Jan. 30, 1956, fire swept through the structure, destroying the wooden roof and interior floors. The upper walls were later knocked down to prevent them from falling.
Light and Power Company building (now Falls Overlook Cafe)
The quartzite building still standing on the east bank is the Sioux Falls Light and Power Company building, completed in 1908. The building housed three 500-kilowatt hydroelectric generators and used the dam and the millrace from the Queen Bee Mill. In subsequent years the plant added additional coal-fired steam generators. The plant was abandoned in 1974 and donated to the city in 1977. Before remodeling took place to create the Falls Overlook Cafe, the building was in similar condition as when it was first constructed.
Today, Falls Overlook Cafe serves a variety of family-friendly foods, ice cream treats and beverages to be enjoyed both inside and out. Historical items are on display. For more information please call the Overlook Cafe at 605.367.4885
Millrace and Dam
Originally constructed to provide power for the Queen Bee Mill in the 1880s, the dam was raised in 1908 to supply power to the hydroelectric plant. Today the millrace is a viewing platform.
When the city was founded in 1856, a small island was located upstream of the main falls. Popularly called "The Island," later named Brookings Island, and still later Seney Island after the investor who funded the Queen Bee Mill, it was a popular spot for early recreation. The channel around the island was closed in 1907 to increase flow to the hydroelectric plant.
Visitor Information Center
The Falls Park Visitor Information Center offers guidance to those visiting the city. Shop the largest selection of Sioux Falls memorabilia. A five-story, 50 ft. viewing tower offers a breathtaking, panoramic view of the park and city. The observation tower is free. For more information please call the Visitor Information Center 605.367.7430.
This historic building on the North side of the Falls, was built in the late 1800s as a horse barn, but it is not known by whom or for what purpose. Perhaps it was to house horses that worked any of the eleven stone quarries that were in existence at that time. Perhaps it was part of a local creamery. No records exist to tell us, but the building is charming none-the-less. From 1999 to 2010, it housed an arts center and became a place for artists to exhibit and practice art.
Falls Park Open Air Shelter
The Falls Park Open Air Shelter is home to the Farmers' Market and is available for large picnics, special events and more. The shelter is 200' long by 42' wide with a 30' wide concrete walk. Electrical service is provided to each column and water service is available at both ends. It has 32 covered and 32 uncovered parking spaces in the lot.
Phillips to the Falls
Downtown and Falls Park have been reunited by "Phillips to the Falls", a walking/driving route down Phillips Avenue from 5th St. to Falls Park.
The Big Sioux River and Recreational Greenway
The 19.13 mile trail begins at Falls Park and loops around the city. Walk, jog, bike, or rollerblade your way along the Big Sioux River as it flows through Sioux Falls. The River Greenway offers a paved bike trail that winds through scenic urban and wildlife areas. The trails are maintained in the winter as well, so enjoy a nice crisp winter walk for year-round outdoor enjoyment.
From mid-November to the first week in January each year, Falls Park becomes a spectacular "Winter Wonderland" with breathtaking lights throughout the entire park. Don't miss this enchanting winter attraction. Click here for more information about Winter Wonderland at Falls Park and the 2013 11th Annual Winter Wonderland Kick-off Event.
Monarch of the Plains Statue
Beautifully sculpted from a 12-ton piece of mahogany granite mined in the Milbank, SD, area, Monarch is a work of art created by Darold Bailey.
American Farmer Sculpture
American Farmer was created by Sondra Jonson of Cambridge, NE. This bronze sculpture won Best of Show in SculptureWalk 2004. American Farmer focuses on the patriarch of a rural home. Jonson says she wanted to capture a man of strength and determination who is resolute and pragmatic.
For Which It Stands
Created by James Haire, For Which it Stands was voted People's Choice in SculptureWalk 2006.