This state park features a prominent hill once visited by Lewis and Clark in 1804.
The Plains Indians of the region considered Spirit Mound the home of dangerous spirits or little people. After hours of walking in the hot sun for many hours, 10 men in the Lewis and Clark Expedition were going to explore the Spirit Mound. Clark commented that many of the men were very thirsty, and even their dog was having trouble and went to a creek nearby. Why were the men making this trek? The Spirit Mound is described as a "mountain of evil spirits," a "hill of little people," and a "place of Devils." The Sioux, Omaha, and Otoe tribes told them that 18-inch humans with "remarkable large heads" were at the site. The little spirit men had arrows and would attack anyone that came near the hill.
Lewis and Clark said they found none of the little people; instead, hundreds of bison and large flocks of birds around the mound. Apparently, Clark deduced that the steady wind over the prairie drove insects to seek shelter on one side of the mound, and the birds would come to eat the insects. Clark wrote in his journal that the stories that were told about the site might have their origins due to the unusual animal activity. Today we know by descriptions recorded in the Lewis and Clark Expedition journals that they stood on the top of Spirit Mound and looked over the large prairie below while trying to understand the mystery of the site.
Visitors can hike to the top of the Spirit Mound and back, a 1.5-mile trek round-trip. The views are beautiful, and the windflowers, frogs, butterflies, garter snakes, and tall grass provides a scenic backdrop. There are historical markers on the trail telling the story of Spirit Mound. At the top, visitors will enjoy 360-degree views featuring the flat landscape dotted with farmhouses and grain bins. The park was established in 2002 and covers 240 acres. This is a great stop for anyone driving through southeastern South Dakota.