Outdoor Activities For The Younger Generation In South Dakota

Last Updated by Nate Wek on

South Dakota has had tourism slogans that encourage people to come experience the state – and great places. There’s a tradition in many families of outdoor activities from snowmobiling in the Hills to hunting pheasants. The trick for state agencies is how to keep the next generation active outdoors.

The South Dakota Department of Tourism and the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department are making attempts at catering towards the next generation.

Wanda Goodman is the Deputy Secretary for the South Dakota Department of Tourism. She says when it comes to outdoor activities, South Dakota has more to offer than what some people may think.

"We've got six National Park Service units across the state, five out in the Black Hills area and one down in Southeastern South Dakota that some people, some listeners might not even be aware of. And then of course, our state parks and everything there is to do throughout the state in our state parks, whether it's camping, or hiking, or getting out and doing some rock climbing," said Goodman. "There's something out there for everyone. And like I said, you really don't have to go very far to find those things."

Even though part of her job deals with examining the out-of-state tourists that come to vacation, another chunk are the tourists who are from South Dakota, who Goodman calls ‘Backyard Vacationers.’

"Of course, our Black Hills aren't as big as the Rocky Mountains, or maybe as grand looking when you see them in pictures or what have you, but they're so easy to access. I think we have something around 350 miles of hiking trails out in the Black Hills. I know there are several hundred miles of hiking trails across Eastern South Dakota as well throughout our state parks," explained Goodman. "So, it makes it easier when you're a young family with young children to get out and access those trails and not feel like you have to be a backpacker or a serious mountain climber to go do that activity."

Goodman said another aspect of South Dakota that connects to the younger demographic is the growth of the breweries in the state. Some of those breweries have even partnered together to join a common theme.

"I think a lot of the breweries are now collaborating together for kind of like an itinerary or a trail that you can follow so that you can, a visitor can experience several of them in one area," said Goodman. "Yeah, I don't think the trend is slowing down anytime soon."

The South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department is also providing services to the younger adult programs.

Chad Tussing is the Director of the Outdoor Campus West in Rapid City, who said they offer many programs to people in that 25 to 35 age group range.

"We have a lot of opportunities for that audience. Actually, it's one of our priority audiences to hit with classes and programming. So we have things along the lines of fly-fishing or basic fishing, even camping skills. Hunting skills as well," listed Tussing. "Whether it is learning how to dress game, field dress game or cook, we do some wild game cooking classes, and we have lots of those different opportunities for folks."

Tussing said focusing on younger adults is a priority, because nationally, there’s a decline in the number of people who hunt and fish.

"People that participate in those sports are aging out. The Baby Boomer generation and not of all them passed that interest or that passion on to their kids or their grandkids," explained Tussing. "But, some people are discovering it on their own. So as an adult, they're thinking this would be great. It's something that I can do that's enjoyable."

One of the programs offered by the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks is the Harvest South Dakota Program. As part of that, there’s a Hunting 101 course. Tussing said this class is popular, despite what some of the national trends show.

"We've had a lot of college kids and folks out of college that are interested in that and that class we offer two sessions a year and it fills up just like that," said Tussing. "So we've seen a lot of interest in those types of programs of you know, "Hey, I'm interested in hunting but I don't know anyone who hunts. I don't know even where to start," and we'll take them start to finish."

In South Dakota, most state departments agree that having a wide variety of activities, whether it be hiking, fishing, or touring local breweries, is what is keeping the younger generation interested. It’s not a guarantee this will keep this demographic in the state permanently, but for now they’re spending more time than first thought. 

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