Places We Protect

Whitney Preserve

South Dakota

Landscape of Whitney Preserve in South Dakota.
Whitney Preserve Landscape shot from TNC's Whitney Preserve in western South Dakota. © Nancy A. Johnson

A convergence of sage lands, pine forest and grasslands makes this area important for conservation.

Overview

Description

Why You Should Visit

Whitney Preserve is adjacent to beautiful Cascade Springs, the largest perennial spring and one of only two warm springs found in the Black Hills. The preserve, named for Nathaniel and Mary Whitney, conservation pioneers in South Dakota, includes three miles of Cascade Creek just below its source, Cascade Springs. During daylight hours, visitors also can walk along a nature trail that is one of the best places in the Black Hills to see birds.

Why TNC Selected This Site

The Whitney Preserve is located on the eastern edge of a large, undeveloped landscape where elements of sage lands, pine forest and mixed grasslands come together. The convergence of these habitat types make this area important for conservation. Ongoing conservation work includes monitoring and management of invasive species, thinning non-native trees, maintaining fencing for rotational grazing, monitoring the health of native plant and animal communities, and partnering with neighbors and local landowners to advance conservation.

 

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Size

4,383 acres

Explore our work in South Dakota

Visit

  • Preserve Guidelines

    When visiting the preserve, please do:

    • Plan ahead. We advise you to dress in layers, bring plenty of water and protect yourself from ticks, poison ivy or poison sumac by wearing long pants and tall socks.
    • Pack a bag. To get the most of your visit, consider bringing along binoculars, a camera, field guides or other items to enhance your nature experience.
    • Stay on trail and keep your dog on a leash.
    • Wear bright, visible clothing—especially during hunting season.
    • Close any gates you open.

    Please don't:

    • Make new trails; use existing trails and fire breaks where present.
    • Use motorized vehicles of any sort, including ATVs, motorcycles and snowmobiles, except on public roads. At this time, ATVs are permitted on the US Forest Service road. They must stay on the road at all times - no driving off trail and no driving on the marked spur roads. 
    • Bike, camp, hunt, ride horseback, start fires or feed animals.

    Read our full preserve visitation guidelines.

  • What to See

    Plants: The spring supports a unique warm riverine system that includes four rare plant species—tulip gentian, beaked spike-rush, southern maidenhair fern and stream orchid—that are found nowhere else in the Black Hills or the surrounding Great Plains.

    Wildlife: Whitney Preserve and the surrounding landscape contain important habitat for turkey, deer, elk, bobcat and mountain lions. The constant flow of Cascade Creek and Cool Creek support deciduous trees that provide important habitat for birds. The nature trail at the Whitney Preserve is one of the best places in the Black Hills for birdwatchers.

    Cascade Creek: Whitney Preserve is situated between Cascade Springs and Cascade Falls. Water emerges at six known discharge locations, flowing at about 150 gallons per second, at a consistent temperature of about 68°F year-round. The unique hydrogeologic features of Cascade Springs provide a unique warm riverine ecosystem, which supports wildlife and several of South Dakota’s rare plant species. The stream’s water is rich in calcium dissolved from rocks in the groundwater flow system; some of the minerals are later deposited on the streambed in the form of travertine. Learn more about the hydrogeology of Cascade Springs here.

  • Bev's Bunkhouse

    Bev’s Bunkhouse is a multi-purpose building that was designed to provide meeting space for partners, classroom space for school groups and lodging for researchers, work crews, volunteers and staff. We are excited to share this facility with diverse groups that have a nature- or conservation-related focus. Examples of groups that have used Whitney Preserve facilities include the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, SDSU Extension Office, AmeriCorps, Youth and Family Services, local school groups and more.

  • Accessibility

    Bev's Bunkhouse is wheelchair accessible.

People TNC South Dakota supporters at a celebratory gathering. © Karla Suckling /TNC

History of Whitney Preserve

The Whitneys

Nathaniel and Mary Whitney were conservation leaders in the Black Hills region, helping to establish the South Dakota Chapter of The Nature Conservancy in the early 1950s. Nathaniel Whitney, a pediatrician and avid birder, co-authored "Birds of the Black Hills" and contributed to the "Birds of South Dakota." To honor Nathaniel and Mary, the Whitney family gave the cornerstone gift to purchase the preserve’s first 1,195 acres of land in 1998. In honor of their generous donation, the preserve was named the Nathaniel and Mary Whitney Preserve at Cascade Creek.

Beverly Paulson

Beverly Paulson had a life-long appreciation of our natural world. She led countless youth groups on nature outings for anywhere from an hour to several days, with field guides always at hand. Camping and canoeing with her family were treasured adventures. Bev and her husband, Lloyd, supplied the funding to purchase the 160-acre Brainerd Indian School campus in 2002 (current site of Bev’s Bunkhouse) for inclusion in the Whitney Preserve. In Bev’s memory, Lloyd provided most of the funding for Bev’s Bunkhouse, completed in 2013, along with a substantial endowment for its future upkeep.

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Photos from Whitney Preserve

Explore beautiful vistas, fascinating plants and wildlife, and the local treasure that is Cascade Creek.

Landscape view of Whitney Preserve in the Black Hills.
A child holds of pair of binoculars and looks out over the Black Hills landscape.
Closeup of a ponderosa pine.
Beautiful clear and teal blue cascade creek flowing robustly.
Winter landscape shot of Black Hills with tree snag in the foreground.
A forested hilltop against a clear blue sky.
Closeup of Great Plains prickly pair cactus.
Rushing rapids of Cascade Creek.
A group of birdwatchers holding up binoculars and looking toward the sky.
Rocky terrain at Whitney Preserve.

Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

See the Complete Map

Support Our Work at Whitney Preserve

You can help us protect South Dakota’s diverse plant and animal communities. Make a donation now to help us further our work to conserve this iconic place for people and nature.