Dordt College News

Tour group experiences Great Plains adventure

June 19, 2006

See tour pictures here


A tour bus of travelers on a “Great Plains Experience” departed from Dordt College June 4 for a week long learning vacation along the Missouri River from Broken Kettle Prairie Preserve to Pierre, SD.

Thirty-six participants joined tour guides James Schaap and Robb De Haan this year, with participants from as far away as California and New Jersey, ranging in ages from 20-80.

“I learned more than I every imagined could be learned about the Great Plains,” commented one participant, who added that the tour “opens your eyes to the beauty of the plains.”

This is the third year the Great Plains Experience has been offered, and the tour coordinator, Dianne De Wit, said it just keeps getting better. “It’s an exciting blend of environment and storytelling,” said De Wit, with environmental studies professor Robb De Haan sharing his knowledge of prairie plants and flowers, wildlife and the Missouri River; and author/English professor James Schaap sharing stories and insights on both Lakota Sioux and Dutch immigrant culture.

De Wit said another unique aspect of the tour is “the opportunity to talk to real people,” regional residents who shared their stories. At Harrison, New Holland and Platte, SD, three churches hosted the tour group, not only serving homemade ethnic meals, but also sharing some individual stories and giving them an insider’s look at the region.


“You would never find these places or people through a tourist brochure,” commented De Wit, who arranged for the group to visit with Pastor Gabriel Medicine Eagle on the Rosebud Indian Reservation; take a hike along a remote bend in the Missouri at Lower Brule; and a wagon ride through a herd of 300 buffalo on a private bison ranch near Blue Mound State Park in Minnesota. De Wit said a museum stop at Freeman, SD, turned out to be a treasure trove of Indian artifacts and lore, while a descendent of Meriwether Lewis acted as their guide along a scenic portion of the Missouri.

Other stops on the tour included the Oahe Dam, an evening riverboat ride and a stop at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center.

Participants said one of the highlights of their week together was devotions in old country churches, on the prairie, and in a rural cemetery. They were most surprised by the beauty of South Dakota, and how desolate and unspoiled it is, said De Wit.

A decision has not been made at this time whether to offer the Great Plains Experience again next year: anyone interested in this trip should contact Dianne De Wit at 712-722-6029.

Media Access: Download Word Version