PIERRE, S.D. – There is a place in South Dakota that stands tall above the trees offering a beautiful view of three states. This Great Place is the Joseph N. Nicollet Tower near Sisseton.
From the top of the 75-foot-tall Nicollet Tower, visitors can see South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota along with 11 communities and the Continental Divide.
Joseph N. Nicollet was a French mapmaker who explored and mapped the Coteau des Prairies during the 1830s. Nicollet was contracted by the U.S. Topographical Corps to map the area between the Mississippi River and the Missouri River. The names of locations were important to Nicollet, as he wanted the map to include the accurate names that the Native Americans used in their land. Nicollet had a great appreciation for their assistance during his time in the area while creating his Great Map.
Nicollet Tower was built when a life-long resident and banker in the Sisseton area, Harold L. Torness, was inspired by the book “Joseph N. Nicollet on the Plains and Prairies: The Expeditions of 1838-39 with Journals, Letters, and Notes on the Dakota Indians.” Torness led a $335,000 campaign to build a tower and interpretive center to honor Nicollet.
At the base of the tower is the Nicollet Interpretive Center that displays the Great Map created by Nicollet. Original artwork and murals by John S. Wilson depict Nicollet’s journey. Dakota Encounters, a short video presentation tells of the land, the Native American people and the mapmaker in his own words taken from his journals in the 1830s.
Nicollet Tower itself is accessible year-round. The Interpretive Center is open Memorial weekend in May through Native American Day in October from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday, and from 1-4 p.m., on Sunday. Admission is free to the Joseph N. Nicollet Tower. The Tower is located 3.5 miles west of Sisseton on Highway 10, I-29 Exit 232.
South Dakota’s Great Places weekly press release series is a project of the South Dakota Department of Tourism, designed to highlight places in South Dakota that are unique to travelers and residents alike. View our newsroom to access the complete list of articles.