Flying at Oacoma, South Dakota

Ahi on the shore of the Missouri River
Ahi on the shore of the Missouri River.

I stayed in Oacoma, SD for a couple of days on our way to Wyoming for the Solar Eclipse 2017 and, between family sight seeing including a couple of dams and the capitol at Pierre, I got in a bit of flying.

We stayed at the Arrowhead Cedar Shore Resort in Oacoma that is right across the Missouri Rover from Chamberlain, the HQ for many a slope trip to South Dakota. Mostly just passing through but since the resort is right on the shore of the Missouri River I thought, maybe, I’d get a chance to fly a bit. As it happened, time was short but the SE wind was a decent direction for a gander op the shoe north of the resort. I hit pay dirt about 1.5 miles north of Cedar Shore on some Public Land that had about a 30 foot slope with the wind coming straight in at about 15mph.

First time flying this shoreline slope that is 1.5 miles north of the Arrowhead Cedar Shore Resort in Tacoma, SD. Notice that the shoreline bends to the right past the trees for a more southerly direction, Plus, no trees!

My first bird in the air was, of course, the Weasel. I was only moderately hesitant to throw the plane in the air, not because I didn’t think the slope would work but because I’d left the wing screws and the Blenderm tape back at the hotel! No matter, I figured the magnets holding the Weasel-Trek together were strong enough for an exploratory flight and, after about 20 minutes I was proven right on both counts. The plane held together and the slope worked!

Even though I had no problem with the Weasel holding together with no wing screws, I didn’t want to try the same with the Ahi. That, and I wanted long pants to trek through the tall grass to get a bit further down the slope. So, back to the hotel I went. 15 minutes later I was back at the hill putting together the Ahi with wing screws and tape!

As I was putting together the Ahi I decided to add 2 ounces of ballast because the lift was a bit bumpy and I wanted to try to smooth it out a bit. Seemed to work fine as the Ahi grooved right out of my hand. By this time the wind had also picked up close to 20mph. I had a good flight just getting to know the Ahi and, while the lift was OK, I think the increased wind velocity started to blow the lift band out a bit. No matter if it stays int he air I’ll fly that thing!

My final flight of the day was another Weasel flight with the full confidence of a screwed and taped bird. Wonderful!

If you find yourself in the area and don’t want to drive to the bigger slopes outside of town, this is a very flyable shoreline slope that worked well in a Southeast wind. I think 12-15mph would be ideal for the dream-flight dream team of the Ahi, Weasel and Alula!


South Dakota Slope Trip April 2009

Dave and I went on an early season slope trip in mid-April 2009. We met Rob and about a dozen other dedicated slopers on Thursday and had a couple of good days of sloping at The Pasture in NE wind conditions.

Some of the highlights of the weekend were:

  • Maiden flights for several of DaveO’s planes including a Jart Lite, Ruby, Predator and Destiny.
  • Flying my V-Ultra both days. It has been too long and I love that plane!
  • Maiden flight of the McLean Vector2 that DaveK just finished. Gotta get mine done! That is a seriously excellent plane!
  • Listening to DaveK’s vacuum bagging technique tips.
  • Hanging with the Watertown boys.
  • Dinner at Charly’s

I’ll be heading out again for a few days in mid-May. Hope to get some DSing in them and look forward to seeing the crew again.

As always, if you are interested in sloping in South Dakota contact Rob. He will be able to tell you what you need to know if you want to join us.

South Dakota Slope Trip September 2002

If you asked anyone that attended this last trip to Chamberlain you would hear what a great time we all had. The first two days of the trip we encountered overcast and occasional rain but the winds cooperated even on those days. By the third day the winds were blowing about 35mph (my guess) and the weather warmed up quite a bit. Sunday was warm and the winds were steady at about 15 to 20 mph, which made for great flying conditions.

About 25 people made the trip this year. Bill Grenoble and Rick Rensi drove all the way from PA to fly with us. Their van was packed with some great looking and flying models of all descriptions. Bill’s sense of humor added to the fun we were already having before we ever arrived in South Dakota. Back at the motel Bill and Rick both buzzed  the parking lot with their small electrics and made a few carrier landings (that’s what they said they were in an effort to save face) on the roof of the motel building.
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South Dakota Slope Trip 2002 notes by Bill Kuhl

Ed Berris did a great job of describing the September slope trip to South Dakota, I just wanted to add a few comments and offer the digital pictures I had taken. This was my first sloping trip to South Dakota, but it will not be my last. Most of my sailplane flying has been thermal soaring, but I have a new appreciation of slope soaring after this trip.

Taking a trip like this, you have to look at the whole experience, not just the flying. All the things you learn, the camaraderie of being around other people with similar interests, and enjoying the outdoors, no matter what the weather is like. I picked up more soaring knowledge during the meals we shared, than reading a month of Soaring Exchange.

Emil and Larry had their JW’s in the DS grove together


Observing DS for the first time was a real treat. Watching it on video, makes it look much easier than it really is. Even the very experienced pilots were bashing the hill because their planes were caught in turbulence around the DS groove. I really have an appreciation of the durability and performance of the newer EPP slope planes, how these planes survive repeated crashes on the rocky slopes is beyond me. I joked with the guys, “Imagine if DS was discovered when everyone flew balsa sailplanes?”

As far as my flying, in three and a half days of slope flying, I must of accumulated more stick time than most power flyers in my local club put in during an entire season of flying. But, next trip I will have at least one JW for sure.

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Slope Flying in South Dakota

South Dakota Slope Flying Sites

There are numerous bluffs along the Missouri, with 500 to 600 feet of elevation in South Dakota, most are on private ranches. If you are going to be in the area give Rob Hurd a call at 605-366-4076. You won’t find the spots in the following stories without him. South Dakota is a huge place and a lot of the residents like their space. Don’t go on any private land without the owners permission!

These are locations we have had the privilege to fly. Some may have access restrictions.

Check with local flyers for information.




Slope Flying in and around Chamberlain, South Dakota

Slope Flying in and around Chamberlain, South Dakota

Why Chamberlain? Population 2347

I have traveled through South Dakota many times over the past 30 years and have never stopped for any extended time to see anything other than Mt. Rushmore. But I kept noticing the spectacular view from the rest stop on I-90 at the Missouri river as I passed through. It looked liked great slope country. On this trip, made over the Memorial weekend just expressly to find this out, we found spectacular slopes in a very windy state.
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South Dakota Slope Trip October 2001

In memory of Ed Harris 1933-2001.
Read a tribute to Ed by friend Jim Porter.

There are over 75 pictures on the site from this trip. Start looking at them here.

Well y’all, here is the beginning of the report on the 2001 South Dakota Slopin’ Safari, held over four days in the Chamberlain area of South Dakota. 25 pilots from around the Midwest made the trek. States represented included Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and South Dakota.

Pilots started arriving early in the AM of Thursday, October 4th and were welcomed to the first sloping location by South Dakota resident and slope finder, Rob Hurd. Rob has done extensive research and travel to find the best locations for sloping in South Dakota and the next 4 days would prove that his search was not in vain.

The location Rob chose for Thursday, located on a private ranch near Chamberlain, had a large area where pilots could drive to the top of the hill and fly just feet from their vehicles. The wind was light in the AM but flyable and with the thermals coming through there was no excuse not to get the flying under way.

Flyers continued to arrive throughout the day and there were 18 -20 who showed up on Thursday.

Many of the new arrivals chose to stay at the spot near the parking area. Several adventurous types followed Rob to a different hill that was about a 10 minute hike from the parking area. Shazam! It was a great spot for DSing! Several pilots took DSing 101 from Rob as most of the attendees had never done the DS thing before. We spent several hours finding our DS wings with Rob patiently looking on and offering advice.

Dinner at Al’s Oasis completed the evening and I went to sleep with the whoosh, whoosh sounds of DSing in my head.

Friday looked to be a bit better for wind and it was blowing somewhat stronger with the late afternoon offering up 18-20 mph pretty consistently. Even with the decent wind pilots still had to contend with strong thermals and the ensuing sink throughout the day.

Give a soaring junkie a new toy and see if he can resist! Several more pilots made the trip to the DS location, no doubt encouraged by those who had done it on Thursday. I spent the whole day there! Who says junkies are not sociable, you just have to come to my crib!

The highlight of Friday’s flying, for me anyway, was a tossup between DSing my Prodij and Extreme and watching Dave Hauch DS his 2 meter Duck! Here was the sound: Quack, Quack, Smack! Too bad it had to end that way Dave!

Prime Rib at Charley’s did the trick for many a hungry tummy on Friday evening.

Saturday and Sunday were spent front siding at another private ranch about 5 miles from the first site. The slope here was spectacular! The ridge is about 250 feet above the land immediately below and then it slopes down another 300 feet or so to the Missouri which is less than 3/4 mile away. The bowl shape of the site would make working it from different wind directions possible although it was pretty consistent on the two days we were there.

Saturday the wind was a bit light, but most people brought planes for light air. As the day progressed, and the thermals started to add to the available lift, many different birds made it into the air.

Rob, Larry, Walt and several other guys had some combat going later in the day while Dave and I, as well as a couple of other “crunchie” flyers, used a different spot on the slope. There was room for all.

A big group dinner and plenty of hangar talk took place at Al’s Oasis on Saturday evening.

Sunday started out with better winds and as more guys packed up to leave, it kept building. Dave and I got in some good flights with our Vindicators. I had the Extreme and Prodij out as well. Mirko had a nice flight with his 4 meter LS-4 and avoided what could have been a disaterous landing behind the hill when his plane hunted out the tallest grass around to settle in. Walt and Emil really got their Zippers dialed in.

One of the highlights of Sundays flying was playing “last guy to pull up wins” with Rob and Larry. Basically we all start at about the same altitude, dive for the valley floor and wait until the other two chicken out. I think we all were about equally daring, although I am sure Rob won one of the rounds because I swear he breezed a tree at the bottom.

A partial list of planes flown during the 4 days: Zagis galore, Boomerangs, Brisk II, Image, 2 Vindicators, Extreme, Prodij, 4 meter LS-4, Hillbilly, several Zippers, several Fun-1s, several JWs, 2 meter Duck, Wide Glide, Eli 2, Vern Hunt F3B, a couple of Vern flying wings, several foamy warbirds, Encore, Scar, Windfree, SH-50, Mini-Acacia, 2 Sagittas, several 60 inch racers from MRCSS, 2 meter DAW 1-26 and many more!

South Dakota Slopin’ Safari – July 2001

South Dakota Slopin’ Safari – July 2001
by Ed Berris

Walt Huemmer, Dave Engleson, Dave Fisher, Lee Berris (my son) and I drove to Central South Dakota for the 2001 slope expedition. We met Mirko Bodul and South Dakota slope guide and all around good guy, Rob Hurd waiting for us on the side of the road off interstate 90.  Mirko had left Milwaukee on the 18th so he already had plenty of flying time completed by the time we arrived early Friday afternoon.

Walt, Ed, Dave E. and Dave F. at the ranch in South Dakoa


We wasted no time heading to what turned out to be the most fantastic slope site I’ve visited and that includes Torrey Pines in San Diego. The hill was over 500 feet tall and the bowl shaped area we flew in extended all the way down to the river/lake below. It was not only beautiful but also a fantastic place to fly from.

The farmer that owned the land came up each day we were there to watch us fly and to visit. He and his son couldn’t have been friendlier and we also enjoyed their company. On Saturday night he (the land owner) suggested that we visit one of the restaurants that he was familiar with. He told us to be sure to tell the hostess that we were flying on his land and to treat us right.  Actually, we didn’t have to do that because while we were waiting to be seated for dinner, he called the restaurant himself to tell the owner that we were guests of his and to make sure they took good care of us.

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