South Dakota has a largely American Indian and rural, agricultural heritage. Located in the Midwestern region of the United States, it is named after the Lakota and the Dakota Sioux American Indian tribes. Its largest city is Sioux Falls and Pierre is its capital.
With its largely rural and agricultural heritage, the state is trying to diversify its economy, but remains largely rural and not densely populated. But there are many fascinating and enriching things to do in South Dakota.
In the southwestern portion of the state are the Black Hills, which are low, pine covered mountains. Here is the famous Mount Rushmore, a major attraction in the state. Custer State Park is also in the Black Hills and covers over 71,000 acres making it one of the largest state parks in the country. There is an abundance of things to do here: hiking, biking, camping, chuck wagon cookouts, horseback riding, birding and others. There are three major scenic drives within the park: Needles Highway, Iron Mountain Road and the Wildlife Loop Road, taking you through habitat of local animals such as burros and big horn sheep.
Also in the park you might encounter some of the members of the world’s largest publicly owned free ranging bison herd. Quite a sight to see. At the end of September, each year the bison are rounded up as part of the weekend celebration of the Buffalo Roundup Arts Festival, a weekend full of excitement, western arts and crafts and more. The round up, done by wranglers and rangers, is on the following Monday.
Mount Rushmore National Park is a must see. Here you can also hike and horseback ride, in addition to viewing the magnificent faces of the four famous presidents. Badlands Wall is an interesting geographic formation within Badlands National Park that goes through the park. In Hot Springs is the Hot Springs Mammoth Site, one of the top fossil interpretive sites in North America. With numerous mammoth and other ice age fauna, it is an internationally known indoor paleontology site/museum. A National Natural Landmark, it offers many fascinating activities, both interpretive and other, for children and adults.
In Custer you will find the Jewel Cave National Monument where you can walk through the cave and view the formations. The Museum of Geology in Rapid City is also interesting. There is even a Reptile Garden with one of the largest selections of reptile species in the country, located in Rapid City.
But two special favorites you will want to save time for are Laura Ingall’s Homestead in De Smet, birthplace of Little House on the Prairie, and the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. This is an 11.000 acre ranch in Hot Springs that breeds wild horses solely for the purpose of letting them run free and unbroken.
Put on your boots, your hats and your blue jeans and experience the wide open spaces and spirit of South Dakota.