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Magic Moments at Little Moreau
Aug 20, 2012
As if the grand landscape stretching out under the golden light of the sunrise wasn’t enough...and as much as I reveled in the sweetly scented West River breeze when the evening dew settled on the prairie grasses, it still wasn’t the highlight of my visit to Little Moreau Recreation Area near Timber Lake, SD. On my last day in the park, I had one of those experiences that bordered on magical. But let me back up a bit before I get to that story.
Little Moreau Recreation Area and I have some history together. Roughly 20 miles as the crow flies to the southwest is the ranch and farm of my youth. The picturesque Little Moreau Creek, which meanders through the park, was also the inspiration for the name of the Little Moreau Athletic Conference, of which my high school (Isabel Wildcats) was a member. To be named a Little Moreau All-Conference basketball player was a pretty big deal to me 20-plus years ago.
I also have fond memories of summer church picnics at the park. I clearly recall gathering at the softball diamond for a spirited game after we picnicked. At that age, it never occurred to me that the pastor, deacons and Sunday school teachers might be able to hit the ball into deep left field and to the trees at the edge of the creek. I’m not sure why, but playing with them and having them cheer me on as I hit the ball over the second baseman’s head is a special memory for me. It plays back in slow motion when I recall it. It pretty much is my definition of a perfect summer afternoon.
I never swam, fished or waterskied at the main dam in the park, but I watched a lone boat pull a skier in figure eights around the small surface area at sunset in early July. It reminded me of learning to ski at Isabel Lake, which was also small. You had to always turn to keep up enough speed to stay on top of the surface and avoid the tall reeds along the shoreline.
The Little Moreau Creek Valley begins to deepen just a few miles northwest of the park. By the time it exits, the beautiful valley is flanked by majestic shortgrass prairie hills as it makes its way to join the Moreau River near the small town of Whitehorse. According to the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks website, the area was used by both the Sioux and Cheyenne as winter shelter before modern times. This sheltered area also means that wildlife is abundant. Especially deer…
Which brings me back to the highlight of my time at the park. On my last morning there, I pulled into one of the picnic areas. As I got out of my vehicle and gathered my camera gear, I saw movement at the edge of the tall grass of the old softball diamond. I quietly shut the door and moved to the nearest tree.
I peeked around the tree trunk and saw two fawns moving my way. I was too far away for any good photos so I took a chance and moved to another tree about 50 feet closer when both their heads were down and eating grass.
SNAP! I stepped on a small branch right as I arrived at the next tree. I was sure the deer heard and were gone. I put my camera to my face and looked around the tree trunk. Lo and behold, the twins were still there and much closer. I held my breath and did my best statue impression. About this time the twins caught a glimpse of my CRV in the parking area and therefore didn’t seem to sense me standing there. The closest fawn was a mere 20 feet away and dappled in the beautiful morning light. I couldn’t believe what was in my camera viewfinder!
Click, click… And just like that they were gone and into the trees. I guess that is why they call it the great outdoors. You never know when something magical will happen. But I’ll tell you what, you will definitely increase your chances of experiencing greatness by spending time at Little Moreau Recreation Area. I did and have the photos to prove it.
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.