I’m back from my adventures in the wilderness of South Dakota and thought I’d share a little bit on my experience.
Heading west from Minnesota, you spend the first 5 hours assuming South Dakota is a giant, endless prairie. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – of all the prairies I’ve seen, this one is right up there. It’s soft and healthy looking. I guess that’s how I’ll portray it.
And then along I-90 you come upon the Missouri River and think to yourself, what the hell is the Missouri River doing in the middle of South Dakota?
Here the landscape abruptly changes from the lazy prairie to a series of large rolling hills and it feels as if someone scrunched up the carpet. The above photo was taken from the fanciest rest stop / museum I’ve ever seen. They share stories here about Lewis and Clark and what it was like to move a gigantic boat upstream. I assume they spent most of their time hoping for a strong southern breeze.
These hills roll on for quite a while until the land simply can’t hang on anymore and it suddenly falls away. This is Badlands country. It’s impressive enough that they gave it a capital B, a national park and a winding highway snaking through it.
After a tour of the Badlands, it becomes possible to begin sensing the rugged Wild West history that seeps from the area.
West of here are the old saloon towns, once driven by the now abandonded gold mines. The most famous of these spots is Deadwood.
Above you see the town in its modern form, nestled in a valley. But once upon a time here, Western superstars like Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane strolled the streets.
Wild Bill didn’t last long here. He was murdered in Saloon No. 10, where I drank a beer and took a long look at the chair he was shot in. It sits on display above the door.
Today, these towns survive on summer tourism and a new source of gold – casinos.
Then finally, the Black Hills:
So named for their dark appearance from the distance, the Black Hills encompass more than a million acres across South Dakota and Wyoming. I particularly enjoy seeing the world look raw, natural and endless, which is probably why I enjoyed the Hills so much.
So that was my adventure. If you get the chance and you’re into rugged history and nature, check out western South Dakota. I think you’d like it.