Palisades State Park

Quick Facts

Palisades State Park

South Dakota

(605) 594-3824

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Unusual terrain and a colorful past make Palisades State Park one of the most unique areas in South Dakota. Split Rock Creek, which flows through the park, is lined with Sioux quartzite formations varying from shelves several feet above the water to 50-foot vertical cliffs. Scenic overlooks and rushing water make Palisades a popular getaway. The park is popular among campers, sightseers, picnickers, rock climbers, and hikers.

Palisades State Park is on the southern edge of the Coteau des Prairies, a series of glacial deposits that extend north and south for nearly 200 miles in eastern South Dakota. The glaciers deposited a thin layer of debris on top of the quartzite. Beds of dark red pipestone can be found between the layers. This is one of the few areas in the nation where pipestone is found. Some American Indians considered the mineral sacred and depressions still remain in the sites where it was once quarried.

Map of Palisades (SD)

Latitude, Longitude: 43.687984, -96.516609

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Activities

  • Boating

    Canoers and kayakers can paddle on Split Rock Creek, past the the cliffs and spires of the Palisades.

  • Camping

    There are 34 campsites, six cabins (each sleeps four people), and a group lodge. The lodge, which can accommodate up to twelve people, is fully furnished and has four bedrooms and two bathrooms.

  • Climbing

    The Sioux Quartzite exposed at Palisades is a smooth, dense rock with unique climbing features. The surface conditions range from slightly gritty on fresh surfaces to glacier- polished and lichen covered. The rock offers a mixture of face and crack climbs. The cliffs and formations at Palisades are used by rock climbers to practice their scaling and rappelling techniques.

    Bolting is not allowed on the quartzite formations. Please contact the park for other climbing regulations before heading out. South Wall Trail and King and Queen Rock Trail provide access to climbing spots.

  • Fishing

    Visitors can fish in Split Rock Creek.

  • Hiking

    There are four hiking trails in the park: Balancing Rock Trail, King and Queen Rock Trail, South Wall Trail, and Split Rock Creek Trail.

    Balancing Rock Trail is 0.6 miles. Starting as a gentle path along the edge of the creek, the trail soon climbs a set of steep steps, leading to Balancing Rock. Balancing Rock is a quartzite column that seems to defy gravity as it stands perched on the wall overlooking the creek. Proceeding east from Balancing Rock, the trail continues to a scenic interpretive overlook. From this vantage point, hikers will get a nice overview of the King and Queen Rock formations and also view a display which illustrates the layout and operation of the old Patton Mill, which operated during the late 1800s and drew its power from the waters of the creek.

    King and Queen Rock Trail is a somewhat difficult 0.2 mile trail. This short trail takes hikers to the heart of the most dramatic geologic formations in the park. The sheer vertical walls of Sioux quartzite appear to rise from the waters of Split Rock Creek and illustrate the effects of millions of years of erosion and weathering. The trail also passes near the site of the original Palisades town site and Patton's flour mill. A bronze plaque tells about the town's brief history, before it was relocated to present day Garretson. The rock formations are popular with rock climbers.

    South Wall Trail is 0.4 miles. This trail starts behind the picnic shelter near a scenic interpretive overlook. The display includes information about the unique geology of the park, specifically the Sioux quartzite formations and local pipestone deposits. The trail then follows the creek, past the site of the old mill dam and on to a popular rock climbing area called the South Wall. The vertical wall presents varied challenges to climbers of all abilities. The trail then ascends by way of a set of stairs and steps through the middle of a large fracture in the rock giving a close-up view of the quartzite cliffs and dramatic landscape. Watch for an ever-changing display of woodland wildflowers along this trail.

    Split Rock Creek Trail, 1.5 miles, allows adventurers to explore the remote northern end of the park. The trail winds its way through the woods, making use of stairs and steps to navigate a short section of steep terrain, passes the campground and cabin area, and finally levels out along the shores of Split Rock Creek. The primary feature of this trail is the wide variety of plant and animal life to be seen. Wildflowers and songbirds are abundant. Evidence of beaver activity can be readily seen.

  • Historic Sites

    A huge flour mill was once located on the bluff overlooking the park, the Patton Mill. The mill was powered by a large water-wheel installed along the rushing Split Rock Creek. The once-bustling town of Palisades grew up around the success of the mill. In 1886, silver was discovered downstream. The silver ore proved to be low in quality, however, and the nearly 300 claims were quickly dropped. There is a display along the King and Queen Rock Trail with information about the layout and operation of the mill.

  • Picnicking

    There are picnic tables along the water.

Seasonality/Weather

The park is open year-round. The park is best suited to wildlife viewing, rock climbing, and hiking in warmer months.

Directions

Driving

Located 10 miles north of I-90, Brandon Exit 406.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(605) 594-3824

Campground reservations

(800) 710-2267

Links