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Prairie coneflowers along a barbed wire fence. Click to enlarge photos.
Prairie coneflowers along a barbed wire fence. Click to enlarge photos.
Little Moreau Creek just before sunset.
Little Moreau Creek just before sunset.
A young buck in velvet along one of the park's hillsides.
A young buck in velvet along one of the park's hillsides.
The full moon rises over the prairie hills.
The full moon rises over the prairie hills.
Sunset over the main dam in early July.
Sunset over the main dam in early July.
Waterskiing at sunset.
Waterskiing at sunset.
Half-grown ducklings paddle along Little Moreau Creek.
Half-grown ducklings paddle along Little Moreau Creek.
An American Goldfinch or Wild Canary along the park road.
An American Goldfinch or Wild Canary along the park road.
Close-up of a Spiderwort blossom adorning one of the park's tall hillsides.
Close-up of a Spiderwort blossom adorning one of the park's tall hillsides.
A crab spider lurks inside a sunflower, waiting to ambush his supper.
A crab spider lurks inside a sunflower, waiting to ambush his supper.
Milkweed buds doing their best tennis ball impressions.
Milkweed buds doing their best tennis ball impressions.
A battered and faded female Monarch butterfly resting on a tree branch in the creek bottom.
A battered and faded female Monarch butterfly resting on a tree branch in the creek bottom.
Little Moreau Creek and valley just after sunup in early August.
Little Moreau Creek and valley just after sunup in early August.
Colorful buffaloberries near the dam.
Colorful buffaloberries near the dam.
This young white-tailed buck saw me before I saw him. I was awfully lucky to catch him mid-flight as he literally high-tailed it away from me.
This young white-tailed buck saw me before I saw him. I was awfully lucky to catch him mid-flight as he literally high-tailed it away from me.
A fawn flees at the sight of a human.
A fawn flees at the sight of a human.
Wild sunflowers at sunset.
Wild sunflowers at sunset.
Blooming swamp milkweed in flower.
Blooming swamp milkweed in flower.
Twin fawns near the main picnic area.
Twin fawns near the main picnic area.
This one didn't flinch. Perhaps he didn't recognize me as a human with a large camera covering my face.
This one didn't flinch. Perhaps he didn't recognize me as a human with a large camera covering my face.
The same fawn dappled in the lovely morning light.
The same fawn dappled in the lovely morning light.
Wild Vervain flowers on the banks of the creek.
Wild Vervain flowers on the banks of the creek.
Bullhead fry in the murky waters of the creek.
Bullhead fry in the murky waters of the creek.
A larger bullhead surfaces in a deeper pool in a creek bend.
A larger bullhead surfaces in a deeper pool in a creek bend.

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



Comments

12:28 pm - Mon, August 20 2012
Laura said:
Nice, Christian! I'm particularly taken with the milkweed photos -- your camera gave me a perspective on them my eyes could never have.
01:28 pm - Mon, August 20 2012
Stu & DeeAnn Surma said:
Chris, The Little Moreau is one of our favorite places too! You got some beautiful shots & the pictures just "Pop" The only bad things about the park are the high concentration of ticks in the Spring when the bass fishing is good! Also, the algae gets very bad in the Summer- but being Spring fed- it always stays full. It is a beautiful little jewel on the prairie! Stu
03:09 pm - Mon, August 20 2012
Christian said:
Thanks Stu. This series has been fun, but I'll have to admit that this particular column is my favorite so far. So many memories of growing up added to the beautiful vistas as well as interesting detail to photograph. Couldn't ask for much more.

Laura, some one smarter than I may know for sure, but I think the first milkweed species may be "showy milkweed" (photographed in early July) as opposed to the "swamp milkweed" pic shown later in the column. photographed in early August)
04:50 pm - Mon, August 20 2012
John Begeman said:
I've drove through there many times but have never taken the time to stop..maybe next time we will have to make trip down there! :)
06:02 am - Tue, August 21 2012
Ed said:
I was there in the fall of 1974 and watched a squirrel on a picnic table have a deer trying to get it nose close to the squirrel and I think that is one of the prettiest place in western SD in the fall like a trip from McLaughlin, Little Eagle, Glencross, Timber Lake and then the Little Moreau recreation area. Try it you'll like it. .
02:39 pm - Wed, August 22 2012
Bernie said:
Very nice shots. Looks like it was a beautiful day. That peaceful country around the Grand and Moreau river valleys is God's country for sure. But it's subtle sometimes, takes a real photographer/naturalist to appreciate it. Thanks Christian.
09:59 am - Wed, July 23 2014
Marchell Phillips said:
I think these are some of the best pics. of Little Moreau! I grew up about 8 miles west of the area and have some of the best memories also. Since my birthday is in June, the park was a favorite spot to celebrate. Great times!

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