Aerial view of Mitchell, South Dakota. Editorial credit: Jacob Boomsma /

Mitchell, South Dakota

Mitchell is a small city situated in Davison County in the US State of South Dakota. With a population of 15,660 residents as per the latest US Census, Mitchell is the state's sixth-most populous city. The area is home to the rich archaeological history of the indigenous people who inhabited the region. In addition, Mitchell offers several recreational activities all year long, attracting over 500,000 tourists annually. 

Geography And Climate Of Mitchell

Aerial view of Mitchell, South Dakota
Aerial view of Mitchell, South Dakota.

Mitchell serves as the chief city of the Mitchell Micropolitan Statistical Area and is situated approximately 70 miles away from Sioux Falls. Mitchell covers a total area of 31.85, of which 29.10 is occupied by land and 2.75 of water. The city is located along the south flowing James River, which is a tributary of the Missouri River. Mitchell is placed just south of the shores of Lake Mitchell, an artifical reservoir. The area is well-equipped with biking and hiking trails that span around the lake as well as within the city.

According to the Koppen Climate Classification, Mitchell experiences a humid continental climate, with hot, humid summers and cold winters. The winters are especially cold, with the average high in January being 26°F, and an average low at 4°F. The year's hottest month is July, with an average daily high of 86°F, and a low of 62°F. The city receives maximum precipitation during the summer months, with an average precipitation being 3.52 inches during June - the rainiest month, and only 0.47 inches during January - the driest month. The city receives about 40.6 inches of snowfall. Due to Mitchell's location in Tornado Alley, the city faces thunderstorms which often create tornadoes

History Of Mitchell

Davison County Courthouse in Mitchell, South Dakota
Davison County Courthouse in Mitchell, South Dakota. Image Credit: Charles W. Chapman, via Wikimedia Commons

The city of Mitchell was formally incorporated as a village in 1881, although settlers arrived in the area years before that, around 1872-73, in anticipation of a railroad that would be built there at the meeting of the James River and Firesteel Creek. Before that, the region was occupied by the Sioux and Arikara Native Americans from roughly 1600-1750. Even before them, Native American farmer-hunters known as the Pre-Mandan occupied the area but left after exhausting the local supply of lumber, according to archaeological research. The Pre-Mandan were there from 1000 A.D to 1100 A.D. and are believed to be the first ones who settled along the banks of the Firesteel Creek.

In fact, the original settlement, now known as Mitchell, was first called Firesteel, but the location was later discovered to be a flood risk, causing the town site to be moved a mile to the west of the riverbanks. It was then re-named Mitchell after Alexander Mitchell, the President of the Milwaukee Road. The railroad was completed in 1880, which established Mitchell as a stop that was connected to the rest of the United States. This caused the population to grow from the original 320 settlers to 1000 just three years later. Today, the population is over 15,000 people.

Population And Economy Of Mitchell

As per the latest US Census, Mitchell has a population of 15,660 inhabitants, with a population density of 538.07 inhabitants per The top ethnic groups in Mitchell include White at 91.4%, Hispanic at 3.9%, African American at 1.4%, Native Americans at 2.1% and Asians at 1.6%. The average household income is $45,318, with a poverty rate of 14.9%. The median value of a home is $147,400, while the average rental cost is $715. The mean travel time to work is just 11.4 minutes, and there were 514 employer firms open as of 2017. The most common employment fields in Mitchell are Health Care and Social Assistance, which accounts for 16.2% of employment within the general workforce. Manufacturing is the second most-employed industry in Mitchell, accounting for 12.1% of the workforce, closely followed by Retail trade accounting for 12% of the workforce.

Attractions In Mitchell

Corn Palace

The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota
The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. Editorial credit: J K Laws /

The world’s only Corn Palace is an attraction that was established in Mitchell in 1892 and continues to retain popularity to this day, with half a million annual visitors coming in from across the country to witness the corn murals. The site offers free guided tours with fun facts about the place's history and information explaining how the corn is grown. There are also carnival rides, vendors, live entertainment, and a farmer’s market.

Prehistoric Indian Village

Inside the Thomson Archeodome Research Center in Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village
Inside the Thomson Archeodome Research Center in Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village. Image Credit: Mchannon, via Wikimedia Commons

This is the only archaeological site in South Dakota that can be visited by the public. It was once a Native American village some 1100 years ago, and excavations are still being made today by archaeologists. Educational tours are also provided, including insight into Native American lore and games, storytelling, and a gift shop with Native American art.

Dakota Discovery Museum

The Dakota Discovery Museum houses art, history and culture from South Dakota in the form of galleries and exhibits by local artists that tell the stories of the region. The museum also host educational sessions for the visitors.

Lake Mitchell

Sunrise over Lake Mitchell, South Dakota
Sunrise over Lake Mitchell, South Dakota. 

Lake Mitchell is an artificial reservoir that was initially used as a drinking water supply. However, over time, the water quality began to become unsuitable for consumption. Now, the area is used as a park and recreation area with trails and other amenities such as 7 recreation facilities, 29 lakeside parks, 14 city parks, a campground, and other access areas. 

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