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newThis project is new and more details and information will be added as they happen. Please check back often.

What's Happening in 2014

Follow the 2014 link to see what's new.




As of June 15, 2013, all the plants have been planted. By mid-summer the Garden looked great!!

How the Garden is Progressing

Before . . . .

this photo was taken in March 2013 looking North across the future garden site. The Oahe Downstream Visitor Center is on the right side.


photo by Doug Backlund,


During . . .

The area is mowed and staked . . .

garden prep

photo by Pat Buscher, SDGFP


Breaking ground April 9, 2013 . . .

ground breaking


Irrigation system gets installed - May 20, 2013. It was a dark and stormy day!

photo by Charlie


The last annual plants and some seeds were put in the ground May 22, 2013.

A few of the plants the students planted . . .

photo by Charlie

Annual beds after a few weeks and some special care . . .

annuals 1

photo by Eileen
photo by Eileen

One of two puddling areas with some of the rocks the students painted . . .

puddling area
photo by Eileen


Prep work before the arrival of the perennial plants - finishing the deer fence.

deer fence

deer fence2

Getting as many weeds out before planting. Charlie and Eileen dug the larger weeds out and Pat went over the plots with a small tiller.



The perennial plants (approximately 3,000) arrived Wednesday (6/12) afternoon. They were left in a cluster in the middle of the garden.

perennials arrive

"Drilling" holes to mark where the plants go. Plants are put in the center of a 6" space; 36 plants per 3-foot square. We got Doug Backlund to take a break from looking for birds to come help.

lattice planting

Volunteers -Bev, Maria and Selena, Cathy and Janelle - also Maggie Lindsey (GFP) hard at work on June 13. Mary was off working on sorting plants.


Friday, June 14 - more volunteers planting - Ruben and Danette along with Colleen Thompson and Amanda Bachmann . . .


Doug is still drilling holes, only 1,800 to go . . .

still drilling

Myrtle and Charles also helped plant, but the heat and humidity of the day made their visit short. Eileen was working in the garden too, but managed to dodge the camera. Here's Maggie putting down woodchips around the newly planted plants . . .


While we were working, a Melissa Blue butterfly came wondering through. They are very small, but you can sort-of see it at the point of the arrow . . .


June 15 - the final day of planting. We had a great turn out of volunteers including some members of the Capital City Children's Chorus (in green shirts).


If you see Pat Buscher, District Supervisor, at the Park, be sure to give him a very big thank you for all his hard work on this project. Here is Pat and his daughter . . .


Charlie with some of the volunteers by the informational kiosk. The signs for the kiosk are being printed and will fill the entire space on both sides. They should be arriving soon.


Some of the finished plant beds with identification tags painted by students. The "welcome" sign and other information signs were also painted by students. In the far background, you can see the bench donated by Karla Baus. The middle of the photo is where the "classroom area" is located. Large rocks suitable for sitting on will be placed in this area.


This is an array of the painted tags with each classroom teacher's name and school name on it. These represent all the students who grew annual plants and/or painted something for the garden.



It's been a busy time to prepare and plant the garden. We all hope that you will come visit. Please make time to sit awhile and watch. The robins and bluebirds have been busy catching bugs in the garden. While we were working, several Monarchs, Mourning Cloaks and Melissa Blue butterflies were flying about.

Some plants came with buds and will be ready to bloom this year. Some may take a year to get established and then bloom. The annuals are starting to bloom. The area should be filled with color soon.

We are always looking for people interested in pulling weeds. If you'd like to help, please email Charlie.



Recent Visitors to the Garden

(photos by Doug Backlund)

June 29, 2013 - Milbert's Tortoiseshell


and an Eastern Comma


July 4, 2013 - Gorgone Checkerspot - at least four of them

Gorgone checkerspot

July 18, 2013 - Pat Buscher reported seeing the following butterflies in the garden: Checkered Whites, Gorgone Checkerspots, Red Admirals, Painted Ladies, Melissa Blues, Orange Sulphurs, Tiger Swallowtail, and Black Swallowtail.

July 20 and 21, 2013 Doug and Charlie spent several hours at the garden pulling weeds, getting photos and talking to people. Here are some of Doug's photos . . .

clear-wingClear-wing Moth

sootywingCommon Sootywing

milkweed beetleMilkweed Long Horn Beetle

admiral tagRed Admiral on plant ID Tag

goldfinchCan you find the goldfinch in the cosmos clump?

larvaLOTS of Gorgone Checkerspot larva!! I hope they don't eat all of the sunflower and purple coneflower plants.

We also saw a Dainty Sulphur, a Pearl Crescent and several bee-mimics. There were lots of bees gathering pollen.


Where is the Garden?

Oahe-Downstream Location Map

Fort Pierre, South Dakota


The Garden is located south of the parking lot by the Visitor Center. A large kiosk is at the edge of the trail.


Garden Progress

You can also follow the progress on the Oahe Downstream Recreation Area facebook page:



This project was made possible with a grant from the USFWS Connecting People with Nature - Let's Go Outside fund.

lets go outside

An additional small grant came from the South Dakota Chapter of The Wildlife Society.


USFWS couldn't do this alone - many thanks go to the staff of South Dakota Game Fish & Parks for their participation during all aspects of the project -

Pat Buscher
Eileen Dowd Stukel
Maggie Lindsey
Dave Ode
Ryan Raynor
Pat Thompson


The Activity Guide by Jen Fowler was made possible through the SDGFP Wildlife Division Small Grants Program.

Thanks go to the many students that participated in classroom activities to help grow plants and decorate the garden.

Thanks to Colleen Thompson for helping coordinate activities at the garden.

Thanks to Amanda Bachmann, SDSU Extension Entomologist.

A big Thank You to all the volunteers who will help plant the perennials June 1 and 2.

Photos have been provided by:
Doug Backlund and Gary Marrone

Thanks to Gary Marrone for his inspiration to getting all of us interested in butterflies. Look for his book Field Guide to Butterflies of South Dakota, published in 2002.

Milbert's Tortoiseshell photo by Gary Marrone




This website was created by Charlene "Charlie" Bessken. If you are interested in helping with this project, feel free to email me at



Last updated: August 13, 2014

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