The cascades on the Big Sioux River were always very attractive and influenced various peoples and cultures before the arrival of the European settlers. The area of present-day Sioux Falls was inhabited by Ho-Chunk, Ioway, Otoe, Missouri, Omaha, Lakota, Dakota and Cheyenne, to name just some of the peoples. The modern Sioux Falls is still inhabited by many members of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota communities.
First European visitors in the area were French explorers who arrived in the early 18th century. They inspected the area, made maps and counted the Native Indians and their settlements. The first American of European descent in the area was Philander Prescott who spent a night at the cascades in 1832. A military expedition from Fort Des Moines also visited the area in 1844.
The land around falls on the Big Sioux River was considered ideal for a future town, not because of the beautiful landscape but also, and more importantly, because of water power from the falls. In 1856, two separate companies were organized with the purpose of claiming the land in the area - St. Paul’s Dakota Land Company and Western Town Company from Dubuque, Iowa. They had a 320-acre claim each but managed to work together, without competing. Only seventeen men spent the first winter in Sioux Falls that year. By 1957, the new settlement had some 40 inhabitants.
Sioux Falls was evacuated after two men were killed during the Dakota War of 1842, which was actually fought in southwestern Minnesota. The abandoned town was sacked and burned almost to the ground.
Fort Dakota was established in 1865, located at the site of the present-day downtown Sioux Falls. Some of the old settlers returned and many new ones arrived. In 1873 there was a building boom in the town which grew to 593 inhabitants. Sioux Falls was incorporated as a village in 1876 and then as a city in 1883. The 1880s were a period of great growth for the entire Dakota region, mostly thanks to the arrival of the railroad. Sioux Falls grew steadily except for several years in the early 1890s, when it was plagued by locusts.
Sioux Falls managed to survive and to continue growing throughout the 20th century. A meat packing plant opened in 1909, providing many new jobs. An airbase and a military radio and communications training school opened in 1942 with the same effect. In 1955 the city annexed South Sioux Falls, which at the time was the third-largest city in South Dakota. Interstate highways in the area were completed by the early 1960s.
Citibank moved its main credit card center to Sioux Falls in 1981. According to many, this was the main reason behind the increased job rates and population growth over the last 25 years. This move also helped transform the economy of Sioux Falls from primarily agricultural and industrial to one centered on finance, service, retail and healthcare.
The city today occupies a total area of 73.47 square miles, of which 0.51 square miles is water. It lies at the extreme eastern portion of South Dakota, some 15 miles from the Minnesota border and eight miles from the Iowa border. It is located on the banks of the Big Sioux River, on the prairie of the Great Plains.
Sioux Falls has over 50 parks and greenways, most notably the Falls Park, Terrace Park, Sherman Park and Yankton Trail Park.
The city has a humid continental climate, with hot and often humid summers and cold, drier winters. Snowfall is light to moderate.
A 2011 estimate puts the population of Sioux Falls at 156,529. At the 2010 Census, Sioux Falls had 153,888 residents and the racial makeup was 86.8% White, 4.2% African American, 2.7% Native American, 1.8% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 2.0% from some other race and 2.5% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos were 4.4% of the population.
Like the rest of South Dakota, Sioux Falls received large waves of European immigrants following the statehood in 1889. Germans and Scandinavians were the largest groups among them. As the result, the majority of the city is Lutheran, followed by Roman Catholics. Other large religious communities in the city include Episcopalians, Baptists, Presbyterians and Pentecostals.
In 2005, the median household income was $59,571 and the per capita income was $21,341.
Since South Dakota levies no corporate income tax, the city is home to a large number of financial companies, including Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Great Western Bank, Western Surety Company, Capital One and others.
Manufacturing companies in Sioux Falls include John Morrell & Co., Wheeler Tank, Mfg, Maguire Iron, Teem, Amesbury Group, Raven Industries, Tyco, Bell Incorporated, Gage Brothers and others.
The largest employers in Sioux Falls include Sanford Health, Avera Health, John Morrell & Co., Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Sioux Falls School District, Hy-Vee, The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, First Premier Bank/Premier Bankcard, Walmart/Sam’s Club, City of Sioux Falls and Sioux Falls VA Medical Center.
A major cultural institution in Sioux Falls is the Washington Pavillion of Arts and Science which contains two performing arts venues and the Kirby Science Discovery Center. It also contains the Visual Arts Center and hosts the performances of South Dakota Symphony.
Sioux Falls is also home to the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum, USS South Dakota Memorial, The 114th Fighter Wing and replicas of Michelangelo’s statues “David” and “Moses.”
The city hosts an event called Sculpture Walk, with exhibits that change each year. Every first friday of the summer months the city hosts “First Fridays,” a joint event by various businesses, associations and galleries.
One of the largest events in the city is Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Festival or simply JazzFest, a three-day outdoor music event held at Yankton Trail Park. Other popular events held in Sioux Falls include LifeLight Festival (the largest free Christian music festival in the USA), the Sioux Empire Spectacular, Festival of Bands and the Sioux Empire Fair.
As for the higher education, Sioux Falls is home to the University of Sioux Falls, Augustana College, Sioux Falls Seminary, Kilian Community College, Southeast Technical Institute, National American University, Colorado Technical University, Great Plains Baptist College, University of South Dakota’s Sanford School of Medicine, South Dakota Public Universities and Research Center and Globe University/Minnesota School of Business.
Sioux Falls lies at the junction of Interstate 29 and Interstate 90. Other major roads and highways in the city area include I-229, South Dakota Highway 11, South Dakota Highway 155, South Dakota Highway 38, South Dakota Highway 42 and others.
Public transportation in the city is operated by Sioux Area Metro, with 16 bus routes. Intercity bus service is operated by Jefferson Lines. The city, like the rest of South Dakota, is currently not served by Amtrak.
The primary airport for the city is Sioux Falls Regional Airport, also known as Joe Foss Field, served by five major domestic airlines.