In just about a month, construction of a butterfly garden at Oahe Downstream Recreation Area will be complete.

The 100-by-50-foot garden will feature 20 different kinds of plants and should attract a variety of butterflies common to South Dakota.

The Prairie Butterfly Garden will be open after June 1, but some of the flowers will probably take longer to bloom.

Charlie Bessken, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, came up with the idea when some funding became available.

“There was this pot of money to get kids outside and I thought, ‘Why don’t we do a butterfly garden to educate kids,’” she said.

Things didn’t quite pan out the first year, but when the funding popped up again, it was time for her idea to emerge from its cocoon.

About $15,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Connecting People with Nature –Let’s Go Outside fund is being used to pay for the construction of the garden with the large majority of the money going toward the plants.

The garden will be located just south of the welcome center where visitors to the recreation area stop to pay. From the parking by the center it will be just a short walk to the garden.

Butterflies won’t actually be brought in to the garden, but will be attracted by the plants, Bessken said.

“We tried to decide what butterflies are in this area and what plants they like,” she said.

Part of the goal is the make the attraction educational. A sign with information on butterflies common to the area and two rarer species will be posted on site, she said. There is also space set aside for an outdoor classroom.

“We did put a classroom area in there so they can come out and sit and watch butterflies and do an activity out there,” she said. “We are going to try and have some big rocks in there they can sit on.”

Bessken said students’ lessons in schools on butterflies and plants will dovetail into the garden.

The project has expanded throughout the community. About 500 people will help plant some flowers starting May 13 and more than 200 Pierre and Stanley County students painted identification markers and rocks.

June 1 is the big planting day for the project.

“I think we have more than 3,000 perennials that we need to plant,” Bessken said.

She is still looking for volunteers to help plant or for donations toward a possible garden at the Farm Island Recreation Area. To contact her, call 224-8693, ext. 231.

For more information on the project, visit

Bessken worked with several people, including the South

Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

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