Big Sioux - Sioux Falls Park (1 mile)

Big Sioux, South Dakota, US


Sioux Falls Park (1 mile)

Usual Difficulty V (for normal flows)
Length 1 Miles
Avg. Gradient 100 fpm
Max Gradient 100 fpm

Big Sioux River

Big Sioux River
Photo of Nathan Burress by Kathleen Burress taken 09/13/05

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-06482020 200 - 1000 cfs V 26d08h55m 974 cfs (running)

River Description

Serious rapids!
The falls are located in Sioux Falls at the intersection of Falls Park Avenue and Phillips Avenue. The falls can be seen from the parking lot, but you'll want to take a stroll around the beautiful park to enjoy views of the lead-in and trailing rapids, as well as the largest falls.


An online webcam from the park tower (which pans through the park to show a wonderful panorama) is available at


Access Issues:
While various rumors have suggested that it is 'illegal' to run the falls, there appears to be no substantiation of that. Local (park and police) officials generally will do their best to discourage boating here due to the serious nature of the falls, but while the area is posted for "No Swimming", there are no codified sanctions against boating here.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-09-26 02:29:19

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.8The fallsHazard Waterfall Playspot Photo

Rapid Descriptions

The falls

Big Sioux River

Big Sioux River
Photo of 9 yr. old Lauren Burress by Kathleen Burress taken 09/13/05

Big falls and park.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
April 4 2008 (3902 days ago)
Matthew StakerDetails
Okay folks... here is the skinny. I have spent several days speaking with local police officers and
officials with the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Game, Fish and Parks and the Park
Operations Manager and it IS NOT ILLEGAL to kayak the falls. What is illegal... swimming through
this stretch of river. There is an ordinance against swimming due to the inherent danger. Should
you take a swim, you could be ticketed. Important to know: South Dakota has a rule that says if you
need rescue, you are responsible for any and all costs involved in providing rescue and medical
assistance. Everyone I have communicated with has tried hard to discourage the idea of running the
falls but have admitted that it is not illegal. There are no records of anyone ever being ticketed
for kayaking the falls. I requested that the Parks Operations Manager please inform the park
employees of the legality so that paddlers would not be hassled for pulling in and running the
stretch. Should someone try to hassle you or prevent you from running the falls, simply request
that they contact the Sioux Falls police department and take the issue up with them. At this point,
the police officers should be aware of the recent discussions regarding my request and be able to
inform the employees at the park to leave you alone. The next step is for paddlers to show the city
of Sioux Falls that we are capable of acting in a safe manner and making appropriate decisions with
regard to varying water levels. The largest waterfall in the center of the run is somewhere between
15-20 feet and there are only a couple spots that appear to provide safe routes. There are many
loose, large boulders below that need to be avoided at most water levels. This is easily a class V
drop so please use good judgement. I recommend that paddlers create a campaign to petition the city
to support kayaking in Falls Park and to hold an annual event at the park for paddlers. Removing
some of the loose rock below the largest fall could create a much safer run and allow for the main
fall to be run at a wider variety of water levels.
December 30 2007 (3998 days ago)
From the comments below this sounds like the sort of run that AW would do well to support opening
up. A big whitewater park in the most whitewater deprived section of the country. Perhaps the
authors of the photos and Jackson web site story should write this up for the AW journal and
include some of the photos.
September 18 2005 (4830 days ago)
Kathleen BurressDetails
The park is cool but your right you will get kicked out and the police called on you if you run the
Falls and below. Even though the police were called you are not breaking any city ordinances for
running it. The park people just don't like for you to. It was fun while it lasted and ended fine.
Nathan and Lauren had a blast and we didn't know we were breaking any rules. It just says no
swimming. Not any No Boating signs. Lauren wrote a cool article for the Jackson website and we put
pictures up as well. Check it out at It's too bad they don't like kayakers to
run this wonderful class V section of the river. It would be great for South Dakota to have boaters
on the river.
August 29 2003 (5582 days ago)
Shawn RandDetails
It has been run. The park people will kick you out so put in up stream of the park run the drops
and take out before the low head dam which is just downstream of the last chute/drop. There is at
least 20 runnable drops in the section of river.

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