On the western side of Rapid City, there is a place that catches you off guard the first time you arrive. You’ll feel as though you’re heading out of town and away from the “hub” of the city, and likely take notice of an impressive structure. The building sits on several acres of both tame and untamed land. Anyone know the place I’m referring to?
It’s the Outdoor Campus West, located on Adventure Trail off Sturgis Road. It is managed by South Dakota’s Department of Game, Fish and Parks, and the mission is “to provide education about outdoor skills, wildlife, conservation and management practices of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to all ages in order to preserve our outdoor heritage.” And it does just that.
The last time I was there I had the opportunity to do quite a few things – many that I’ve tried before, and a few things that I wasn’t so skilled at. It’s all housed in the comforts of a facility with someone nearby to field questions.
First, I tried my hand at archery. Now, I’ve tried several times before, but never have spent a lot of time with it; I’m definitely still a beginner. During this experience, I learned how to raise and lower my aim by adjusting my feet, where to best put my fingers and hand to create balance and steadiness for accuracy, and even had a friendly competition with those I was visiting with. Let’s say I didn’t win this competition! (Not surprising as I was also experimenting to see if I did better left or right handed!)
The exhibits inside provide interactive learning experiences and a chance to look at the animals that call South Dakota home with impressive taxidermy pieces throughout the building. They often hold educational classes inside for the general public or school groups that frequent the facility.
Where I really had fun was outside on the rock climbing wall. There were three levels of difficulty, and my friends and I again had a “friendly” competition. This one got a bit more heated than the archery – all in fun! We raced to the top and strategized over how to conquer the hardest difficulty side. None of us completed.
The grounds at Outdoor Campus West provide an opportunity to get out and explore nature, but right in city limits. There is a tree house to explore, pretend, and play. There are walking trails to take a leisurely walk or get some exercise. There is even a mud pit to make your own mud pie. It’s a place that provides opportunities and chances to get outside and explore; something that we need more of these days.