The Big Slide in Sioux Falls’ Sherman Park Offered Excitement to Riders

The Sherman Park Slide, Sioux Falls, SD, ca. 1900--Courtesy Center of Western Studies, Augustana College

The Sherman Park Big Slide, Sioux Falls, SD–Early 20th Century–Courtesy Center for Western Studies, Augustana College

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the history of roller coasters, and I learned their origin dates back about 400 years ago to ice slides in Russia. About that same time I wrote that post, in a moment of serendipity, I ran across a historical marker in my city of Sioux Falls, SD, that marked the spot of a giant wood slide!

The Big Slide was located at the top of a hill in Sherman Park from approximately 1913-1920. Just over 100 years ago, Edwin A. Sherman, an early businessman and civic leader in Sioux Falls, donated about 50 acres west of the city for a park. Sherman devoted much of the rest of his life to developing parks in both the city and the state.

The park became a popular place for swimming in the Big Sioux River. But, another of the amenities of the park was a wood slide almost 300 feet long, beginning at the top of a steep hill. Near the bottom of the hill, the slide continued over a road, but high enough horses and buggies could go under it. Imagine the fright the horse felt when a screaming person slid above it?

The slide was lined with tin, and riders would sit on waxed paper to go faster, or a piece of old carpet or burlap to protect them from the heat of the tin. However, the slide had a short life before it was deemed dangerous and dismantled.

Historical marker for Sherman Park Slide, Sioux Falls--Photo by Deb Watley

Historical marker for Sherman Park Slide, Sioux Falls–Photo by Deb Watley

For anyone interested in looking for the marker, it is next to a short rock wall that has a bench built into it. In addition, there are a few Native American Indian Burial Mounds close by.

Location of the marker for the Sherman Park Slide--Photo by Deb Watley

Location of the marker for the Sherman Park Slide–Photo by Deb Watley

Check out the Sioux Falls website for more info about Sherman Park’s history.

I had another serendipitous find while researching The Big Slide. The Center for Western Studies at Augustana College in Sioux Falls has a wonderful library! I will be spending more time there!

Have you heard of the Big Slide? Do you know any family stories about the slide? Do you know the purpose of the rock wall/bench? Was it a waiting area for slide riders, or perhaps seating for small concerts, etc.? Would you ride a 300-foot wood slide?

2 comments

  1. Theresa stehly

    Deb, I would love to see that marker.
    I was scouting around the area tonight,but found nothing. Can you be more specific?

    • Deb Watley

      Hi, Theresa, sorry for the delay in responding. I was hosting a graduation weekend and am just now getting caught up. It’s been awhile, but what I remember is that the marker is at the top of the hill, not in the playground area, but to the north of the road that goes around the north of the playground. The marker can be seen from the road, but I think I may have had to walk a bit to read it. When you get to it, there was also some seating cut into the hill. The slide would’ve gone down the hill on the westerly side. It’s all grown over with trees and brush now, but you can still see how big and steep the hill was. I remember having a pretty good view to the north and west of the marker. I hope this helps!

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