10 Amazing Waterfalls in South Dakota

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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South Dakota is a sparsely populated Mid-Western US State famous for Mount Rushmore, with its four US Presidents carved in the granite rock and the Crazy Horse Memorial. Dakota is a native Indian word meaning friend. The Great Plains were home to the Sioux Nation.

‘’The Black Hills of Dakota,’’ sung by Doris Day in the movie Calamity Jane, remembers those Wild West times; one of the falls even has an interesting tale about Jesse James. The plains of South Dakota blend into the Badlands, which got their name because of the rugged terrain, high temperatures in the summertime, and lack of water. They are partly in South Dakota.

There is water, of course, and some of it flows powerfully. Here are 15 amazing waterfalls in South Dakota which are largely a state secret.

1. Sioux Falls, Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls, South DakotaSource: Steven Frame / shutterstock
Sioux Falls

If you were asked to pick the highlight of the 120-acre Sioux Falls Park, you would likely pick the falls themselves.

At over 100-feet high, thousands of gallons of water pour down every second.

Sioux Falls dates back to the middle of the 19th century, and many historic buildings remain within the park itself.

Queen Bee Mill is a seven-story structure that was only in use for a mere two years, yet it still stands today.

Enjoy the art, Stocklands Ag Experience – an agricultural museum – and the Falls Overlook Café, where you can relax and take in the magnificent setting.

2. Cascade Falls Hot Springs

Looking for an outdoor place for swimming in pleasantly warm water? Cascade Falls is the place for you.

Its name tells the story: hot water emerges from a spring two miles above the falls and the natural pool below the falls just beckons you in to relax.

The temperature averages 67 F. The setting is lovely and the water has helped the area to grow some lovely flora.

Kids are able to enjoy shallow parts of the pool, which has deep areas as well.

There is a little picnic spot for you to enjoy too.

3. Spearfish Falls, Spearfish Canyon

Spearfish Falls, South DakotaSource: Jason Patrick Ross / shutterstock
Spearfish Falls, South Dakota

The history of Spearfish Falls is very interesting.

The railroad ran across the falls in the early of 19th century, a great experience for passengers.

But a century later, the water was diverted to create hydroelectric power to a nearby gold mine.

Suddenly, the falls were dry; they did not appear again until 2003 when the creek returned to its original route.

South Dakota’s mines are long gone now.

The railway has been closed for many years but its remains are in evidence.

The walk to reach the falls is fairly simple; park your car at the Latchstring Restaurant and go ahead.

4. Bridal Veil Falls, Spearfish Canyon

Bridal Veil Falls, Spearfish CanyonSource: Nicholas A Mihal / shutterstock
Bridal Veil Falls, Spearfish Canyon

Bridal Veil is a common name for waterfalls right across the USA; it is down to the shape the water creates.

The one in Spearfish Canyon is a beauty, featuring water falling 60 feet from a ledge, with an especially strong flow in the spring after the snow has melted.

Later in the year, the cascade is fairly thin but it still creates a fine mist.

Access is easy from a nearby car park, with plenty of good places for a photograph.

If you decide to visit in the winter, you are likely to see an ice climber making his way up the frozen water.

That is strictly for people with experience.

5. Roughlock Falls, Spearfish Canyon

Roughlock Falls, Spearfish CanyonSource: John Brueske / shutterstock
Roughlock Falls, Spearfish Canyon

The State Natural Area taking the name of these falls is a delight for waterfall lovers.

Roughlock Falls is just off the main canyon and comprise two cascades pouring off ledges to create a lovely sight.

Hikers are in for a treat and visitor facilities include parking, restrooms and an area given over for picnicking.

Trails begin above the falls and head down to the base as well as lookout points.

All are well-maintained and you can select from a number of viewpoints to get yourself a good photograph.

6. Baker’s Falls, Spearfish Canyon

The mysterious Baker’s Falls emerged from a black and white photograph taken in the 1920’s by Josef Fassbender, whose value collection of photographs is much valued today.

He lived locally, so must have known the spot, but in recent years, it has caused much debate – where are they? The conclusion is that the photograph is of Community Cave, which is a frozen column of ice every winter.

There is the sound of falling water from within the ice until it is really cold.

Given that there are three major waterfalls in the canyon to see, you should add this one to your list if you’re in the area.

7. Hippie Hole, Battle Creek

There are two hiking choices to reach Hippie Hole in the Black Hills; one is just an easy walk from a nearby parking lot to the top of the falls and the other a real challenge.

You will need plenty of water on a hot day if you accept the challenge; you will be walking downhill and must avoid the poison ivy.

Either way, you will enjoy the waterfall once you arrive.

Jumping from the falls to the pool below is a popular activity but you should not do that without some thought.

You can sunbathe or swim and enjoy a picnic, but please take your rubbish home with you.

8. Grizzly Bear Falls, Pennington County

Black Hills National Forest is a very popular hiking area.

An additional attraction for those enjoying its fresh air is the Grizzly Bear Falls near Keystone.

It is a great place for families, with kids loving to scramble on the large boulders.

The walk to the falls is little over a mile from the campsite along Grizzly Bear Creek.

Water levels have dropped in recent years and spring is probably the best season to see them.

The region is a designated wildlife preserve.

9. Thunderhead Falls, Rapid City

Thunderhead Falls, Rapid CitySource: Tbennert / Wikimedia
Thunderhead Falls, Rapid City

These falls are part of a disused former mine – a manmade cave, if you like – just 10 miles from Rapid City, known as the gateway to Mount Rushmore.

Emerging from the mine, water cascades more than 30 feet.

You can go into the mine and see where the water drops within before going out into the sunlight.

You will hear the water before you see it.

There is an admission charge and some question whether it is currently open, so if you are planning a trip there, check before you travel.

10. Devil’s Gulch, Garretson

Devil’s GulchSource: Patrick Anderson / shutterstock
Devil’s Gulch

Legend has it that Jesse James jumped over the 20-foot gulch on his horse to escape a posse.

You decide if a horse could leap that gap.

The man in the souvenir shop has more such stories.

These days, visitors are less adventurous when they visit to see the falls.

There are three bridges above the cascade, but you need to take care as you seek the best views because there are no railings.

This is a lovely place for the family, though perhaps not ideal for small children.

You are certain to enjoy a picnic here on a summer’s day.

10 Amazing Waterfalls in South Dakota:

  • Sioux Falls, Sioux Falls
  • Cascade Falls Hot Springs
  • Spearfish Falls, Spearfish Canyon
  • Bridal Veil Falls, Spearfish Canyon
  • Roughlock Falls, Spearfish Canyon
  • Baker’s Falls, Spearfish Canyon
  • Hippie Hole, Battle Creek
  • Grizzly Bear Falls, Pennington County
  • Thunderhead Falls, Rapid City
  • Devil’s Gulch, Garretson