Upper Sioux Agency State Park is permanently closed

Sunset in the valley. Photo by Heather M. Anderson

Why did the park close?

DNR understands how much Minnesotans value our extensive state park system, and we do not take closure of a state park and transfer of public land lightly. However, this is an extraordinary and unique case.

The Upper Sioux Community has a longstanding request to the State of Minnesota that the land at Upper Sioux Agency State Park (USASP) be returned to the Upper Sioux Community, given the extraordinary significance of this land to the tribal community. The land is the site of starvation and death of Dakota people during the summer of 1862, when the U.S. Government failed to provide food promised to the Dakota by treaty. Continuing to operate the land as a recreational use site is inconsistent with this profound history.

In 2023, the Minnesota State Legislature passed, and Governor Walz signed, legislation (Minnesota Laws 2023, Regular Session, Chapter 60 and Chapter 72) directing the DNR and the Minnesota Historical Society to convey all state-owned land within Upper Sioux Agency State Park to the Upper Sioux Community.  

When did the park close?
The park permanently closed to the public on February 16, 2024.
Are there any services that remain available at the park?

No. As of February 16, 2024, the park is closed to both day use and overnight use. Gates are closed, facilities including restrooms are locked, and the park is not being maintained for operation as a state park. There is no access to trails in the park.

What will happen with the buildings located on park property?
DNR worked with the Upper Sioux Community to evaluate buildings on the property. Buildings in disrepair will be demolished. Remaining buildings have conveyed to the Upper Sioux Community with the land transfer.
What happened with non-permanent property such as equipment and supplies located at the park?
State property such as maintenance equipment and tools, picnic tables, canoe racks and supplies were evaluated for condition. Property in usable condition was redistributed to other units within the Minnesota state parks and trails system. Unusable equipment, tools and property was disposed of through the State of Minnesota surplus process.
Will the public have access to the land after the transfer of ownership Upper Sioux Community?
That will be determined by the Upper Sioux Community as the landowner.
Can the public paddle on the Yellow Medicine and Minnesota rivers that cross through or are adjacent to the park?
Yes, provided you access the river from either public property or private property that you have permission to use. Individuals entering private property without permission from the landowner are trespassing and may be prosecuted under the state trespass laws. Learn more about water laws.
Will Hiking Club and Passport Club members be able to complete their club program if they weren't able to visit the park before it closed?
Yes. Hiking Club and Passport Club members who were not able to visit the park before the park closed will still be able to complete their club. A Hiking Club password or Passport Club stamp from Upper Sioux Agency State Park are no longer available or required to complete the club program.
How can I buy Upper Sioux Agency State Park merchandise like pins, patches, etc.?
The remaining inventory of Upper Sioux Agency State Park merchandise was available to purchase online starting in January 2024. All items are sold out and will not be reordered.
Where can the public recreate outdoors in the area?

The Recreation Compass is a great tool to find other outdoor recreation locations in the area. There are two state parks within a 45-mile radius of Upper Sioux Agency State Park (Lac Qui Parle and Camden) and three additional state parks within a 65-mile radius of Upper Sioux Agency State Park (Monson Lake, Sibley and Fort Ridgely). In addition to DNR-managed lands such as state parks and wildlife management areas, there are local and regional parks in the area, such as:

What outdoor recreation opportunities will be added in the Upper Minnesota River Valley to replace those lost by the closure of Upper Sioux Agency State Park?
Through the summer and fall months of 2023, DNR implemented a public engagement process that invited people to share information about their use of Upper Sioux Agency State Park and their desires for meaningful outdoor recreation experiences in the area. Feedback was collected at in-person events and online. A summary of that feedback is available. The ideas and proposals gathered through the public engagement process are being evaluated.

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