South Dakota

South Dakota is our next destination. As we learned when we explored North Dakota, the two states entered the Union at the same time. President Benjamin Harrison shuffled the statehood papers after he signed them so that no one would know which was the first to be admitted as a state. Usually they are listed alphabetically so South Dakota is considered to be the 40th state. After that little history lesson, let's get something to drink and plan
our trip. I have all the usual materials: travel guide and computer links. I'm anxious to get started so let's do it.

The Mount Rushmore State has five counties that are completely within Indian Reservations. The predominant Native Americans of South Dakota are Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota tribes of the Sioux Nation. Agriculture is still a large part of the economy of the state. They raise cattle, corn, soybeans, wheat, flaxseed, sunflowers, hay, rye, and hogs. The tourist industry also contributes a lot. The state mammal is the coyote and the official state jewelry is made of Black Hills Gold.

The Black Hills is the highest mountain range east of the Rockie Mountains. The mountains and forests here contain six national parks, 101 miles of National Scenic Byways, waterfalls, wildlife, trails and Old West landmarks.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial was completed in 1941. The faces of four presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln are carved into the granite of the mountain. Each head is as tall as a six story building. If the whole president had been carved, they would stand about 465 feet tall.

The sculptor of the Crazy Horse Memorial began his work with only a sledge hammer, one drill bit, and a box of dynamite. It will be a 563 foot by 641 foot statue of a man on a warhorse when complete. After 36 years of devoted work, the sculptor died. Luckily, the work continues. When finished it will be as long as a cruise ship and taller than a 60 story building. The head has been finished and is 88 feet high. It is as large as all the presidents on Mount Rushmore combined.

Running beneath the Black Hills is Jewel Cave National Monument. The second largest cave in the world has 146 miles of explored passageways.

Badlands National Park is 244,000 acres full of spires, eroded buttes, and pinnacles. It also contains the largest mixed grass prairie in The United States surrounded by the Buffalo Gap National Grassland. Erosion has revealed the layers of sedimentary layers in the mountains. This is the area of the world's greatest fossil beds from the Oligocene Epoch of the Age of Mammals. You can look in any direction here and not see any signs of civilization. You might, however, see bison, pronghorn, mule and whitetail deer, prairie dogs, coyotes, butterflies, turtles, snakes, bluebirds, vultures, eagles, and hawks. Less likely to be seen are black-footed ferrets that were reintroduced to the area. They are nocturnal animals.

The last big frontier gold rush was to Deadwood Gulch. General George Armstrong Custer led an expedition for the U.S. government to see if reports of gold were true. They found small deposits, but the prospectors who followed found larger deposits. A lawless camp that provided the things wild gold prospectors desired, Deadwood had saloons, bordellos, card houses, and dance halls. Mt Moriah Cemetery of Deadwood includes graves of people like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.

The Mitchell Corn Palace is billed as The World's Only Corn Palace. The building is not made of corn. The walls are covered with murals that are made up of ears of corn. A new mural is sketched and mounted on the walls every year, then decorated with the corn in a paint by numbers fashion. Sourdock and rye are used as trimming. During the summer, The Corn Palace caters to tourists with a gift shop selling products made in South Dakota. In the winter, community activities including sporting events for high schools and colleges are held here.

I gave a lot of information about the Black Hills because it is such a fascinating place. There is so much more to South Dakota. You can check the links below to find the things you are interested in. Then let me know where you went and what you saw. I'm a little late this year to get to see the Nemo Outhouse Races so I'm going to the Dinosaur Park outside Rapid City. And if I remember correctly, the hydroelectric dam in Yankton is a favorite spot for bald eagles to nest. Don't forget... links are below.



  1. I have worked in the Badlands and Custer State Park. The topography is amazing in this state.


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