The Black Hills of South Dakota
I wanted to take you on a tour of my back yard. I live in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota and I wanted to share with you its beauty.
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota.
This is the most famous attraction we have here.
The Black Hills cover an area 125 miles long and 69 wide in western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming. Here you will find rugged rock formations, canyons and gulches, open grassland parks, gurgling streams, deep lakes, and plenty of caves. This is a rare area, where foliage of different types are here, where you will find that trees and plants from the Rocky Mountains, eastern woodlands, northern forests, and the Great Plains converge at this biological crossroads. The forest cover and forage sustain a wide variety of birds and four-legged animals, including elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats.
Many people have come to the Black Hills for its ability to heal and renew a person's spirit. Paha Sapa, as it is called by the native Lakota Sioux. It means "hills that are black." But that is only one translation. The deeper meaning of the word is "the heart of everything that is."
As you travel into Wyoming, you will be able to see Devil's Tower. It is sacred ground to many Native Americans and it is also the first national monument, as proclaimed by President Roosevelt in 1906. Devil's Tower was made famous in the movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Every time I go there, I feel better, more refreshed about life. Its a peaceful place. Personally I wish they would not allow the mountain climbers there because I feel it detracts from the peaceful atmosphere. Each time they put their spikes in her side, she is torn apart more. It hurts to see that happening.
Back in South Dakota, traveling east on I-90, just 12 miles from the border, you will find Spearfish, a town of about 10,000 people, set in a valley, with mountains forming a ring or crown shape around it. Hence, Spearfish has the nickname of Queen City. It has moderate climate and is full of friendly helpful people. Spearfish is home to Black Hills State University, where you can enjoy culture events, like concerts, plays, sports. Spearfish also hosts the Black Hills Passion Play in the summer where a cast of 200 actors and animals perform a play based on the last seven days of Christ's life. In Spearfish also is the D.C. Booth Historic Fish Hatchery, where you can see the waterlife underground through a window. The hatchery sits on the Spearfish Creek, which, believe it or not, never freezes. There are plenty of Black Hills Rainbow Trout living in the creek and many fishermen come here just to fish. in the winter Spearfish trailheads connect to over 300 miles of snowmobile trails.
Spearfish Canyon is the route you want to take next. It is not to be missed. It is a National Scenic Byway, and rightly so. In the canyon you will be following Spearfish creek, surrounded by towering cliffs of white limestone on both sides of you. You have a chance to see white tailed deer, mountain goats, longhorn sheep on the sides of the road as you drive carefully. There are plenty of turn outs to stop and take extavagant photos. Two waterfalls you don't want to miss are Bridal Veil falls, which can be seen from the canyon drive, and Roughlock falls, which is a few miles off the main road and a short hike. You can also see where the movie, "Dances With Wolves" was filmed, just a few miles off the highway.
After your drive through the canyon, you will find yourself at the twin cities of Lead and Deadwood. In Lead, you can find some winter sports, at Terry Peak and Deer Mountain. Terry Peak is 7036 feet at the summit and is the highest ski-lift operated resort east of the Rockies. Terry Peak is the second highest peak in South Dakota. Lead was founded 125 years ago at the time of the great gold rush to the area. Homestake Mining Company has been the town's main employer for those 125 years. Unfortunately it has closed its doors permanently December 31,2001.
Deadwood is the famous gambling town made famous by the shooting of Wild Bill Hickok. It still hosts gambling halls, in the style of the late 1800's and the slots pay out an average og 90 to 92 percent. There are over 2300 slot machines and tables in Deadwood. Deadwood also has a motel called the Bullock which is said to be haunted by Sam Bullock. Actually many of the old buildings in Deadwood have been known to be haunted. In September Deadwood has the Deadwood Jam where many noteworthy bands come to display their talent.
Leaving Deadwood, you want to travel Boulder Canyon Highway to Sturgis, the bikers paradise in South Dakota. As you are traveling Boulder Canyon Highway, be sure to look at all of the beauty that surrounds you. It is breathtaking. In Sturgis, a town of about 7000 people, you will find tree lined streets and welcoming townfolk. But if you come the first full week in August it's a different story. The quiet little town transforms into a bustling city of over 300,000 bikers, all dressed in their leathers and on their Harleys. It's a bit noisy and crowded, but many bikers save their money just to make the yearly trip here, to see their friends from last year and to hear the great concerts that ensue. These bikers are from all walks of life. There are doctors, lawyers, policemen, preachers, lay people from all over.
From Sturgis, you will go east on I-90 and head towards Rapid City, our big city, a town of around 61,000 people. There are eleven local attractions that are all free. Some of these that I recommend are Storybook Island, where you will find a fairyland park with nursery-rhyme displays. There are live animals and a special playground. Castles, trains, rainbows all beg to be played upon and there is a special perfomance in the Children's Theater. One of the other free attractions in Rapid City is Canyon Lake Park where you can stroll along the lake and feed the ducks. It has a footbridge which leads to an island with a gazebo, along with great picnic and playground areas. For those of you into dinosaurs, there is Dinosaur Park, with its lifesized concrete dinosaurs that are perfect for kid climbing and overlooking Rapid City. On the campus of South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, you can visit The Museunm of Geology and see extensive rock collections of agates, cyads, minerals and ores. Also there is the finest quality fossils of dinosaurs, giant fish and prehistoric mammals.
Eight miles south of Rapid City is Bear Country U.S.A. It is a drive-through wildlife park where you will find bear, elk, wolves, bighorn sheep, and other North American wildlife roaming freely. Just be sure you stay in your car!
If you head south out of Rapid City, about 23 miles southwest, on Hwy 16A, you will come to that great monument to four of our greatest presidents, Mount Rushmore. The promenade to the monument is a sight to remember, as it has all fifty of the state flags hanging above you as you walk. Its is fun to see where your state flag is. Of course, the South Dakota one is easy to pick out as it had a large sun symbol on a sky blue background, kind of reminding us why we live here, the sun and the weather.
As you take your time driving back toward the mountains, you have to stop near Custer and see the work being done on Crazy Horse, a very large monument being carved out of a mountain. It is a momunment to remind us of the losses the Natives took when George Custer rode through here and killed so many innocent people. Crazy Horse is one of the battlemasters who annihilated George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn on June 6, 1876.
Head south toward Hot Springs to enjoy some relaxation at Evan's Plunge, a year round hot spring pool. They say it, too, has magical powers, that it heals and provides refreshment for a tired body. In Hot Springs, you can also visit The Mammoth Site and see the largest concentration of Columbian and woolly mammoth bones discovered in where they died in the world. It is the only site in America where the bones were left where they were found and displayed for people to view. Only 25 percent of the site has been explored, so there are many more to be found.
There is so much more to see and do in South Dakota. I have only touched on the Black Hills region and given you a taste of things to do here. I hope you enjoyed your virtual visit.
Here is a picture of the bike path in Spearfish