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The Hidden Beauty of Lake Hiddenwood
Jun 25, 2012
The first time I experienced Lake Hiddenwood State Park I was a mere 16-year-old volunteering as a camp counselor. This park was only an hour and a half drive from my home and I had never heard of it. I was told the place was full of trees, hiking trails and a small lake. As we drove east of Mobridge and then north of Selby through the wide open, rolling fields and pastures, it didn’t seem possible that there could be a forested state park anywhere in the area. We then crested a hill and eased into Hiddenwood Creek Valley and there it was, a little gem of a lake sparkling in the sun and surrounded by thick stands of trees. We had a lot of fun with the campers that afternoon and I was thoroughly impressed with the place.
Some 20-plus years later I find myself walking the “Hidden Beauty” trail before dawn with camera in hand. The trees are thick and the undergrowth is green with life along the trail. I hear turkey, nearly step on a fawn quietly sleeping on a hillside of grass (which nearly gave me a heart attack) and photograph a rosebush unfurling its pink flowers. I swear I must have groomed the trail of at least a dozen cobwebs with my big head. Again, I find it hard to believe that such a place exists in the middle of the high plains of north central South Dakota.
According to South Dakota’s Game, Fish and Parks website, melting glaciers carved the valley. In 1927, the department used a new technique called an earthen dam to create Lake Hiddenwood. It is one of the first artificial lakes in South Dakota. The lake is not deep, but it does contain a variety of fish species including perch, bass and bullhead. The place is also a haven for birds and wildlife. From hawk to deer and turtles to amphibians, you’ll find them all at Hiddenwood.
|The first sunlight of the day lights up Lake Hiddenwood State Park.|
My older brother and his family live near Selby so I invited them to join me at the park to go canoeing. I thought it would be a fun thing to photograph and since he owns the canoe, it was pretty essential they agreed to go. You couldn’t have asked for a better evening on the calm waters of the lake as the sun was glowing yellow through the trees. Hiddenwood Creek’s channel is deep enough to canoe quite a way upstream. If you prefer more open waters, you can turn your boat to the west where the water widens until reaching the small spillway on the northwest part of the dam. I’m not sure what it is, but there is something peaceful as well as memorable being out on the water of Hiddenwood. It might be that the water is so calm even on windy days because of the trees and hills acting as windbreak. Whatever it is, the lake is a special place, especially when spending time on it with family.
The fishing is also entertaining. My nephew and a couple of his friends spent a good hour catching and releasing fish after fish from the boat dock as the last light of the day dimmed. They were quite intrigued to be able to see the schooling perch swim in lazy circles and even see the small little shadows of fish hit their spinner lures just a foot or so under the water. I can see why this place is popular with the local Boy Scout chapter. I’m coming up on 40 years on this earth and I’m not ashamed to say that spending time playing at Lake Hiddenwood made me feel like that wide-eyed kid again. I know I’m not 16 any more but places like Hiddenwood can take you back there even if it’s just for an evening. Thanks to my brother, his wife, and my nephews for making the weekend another special one at Lake Hiddenwood State Park.
Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midcontinent Communications he is often on the road photographing our prettiest spots around the state. Follow Begeman on his blog. To view Christian's columns on other South Dakota state parks and recreation areas, visit his state parks page.