Places to Visit: Black Hills South Dakota

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Black Hills South Dakota

Driving through the Black Hills

On the way to West Yellowstone from the East, the Black Hills make an educational as well as an inspiring stop. With impressive pinnacles, large granite outcrops, and dense forests of pine trees, the Black Hills were sacred to the Sioux Indians. Originally valued by early pioneers for its abundant gold, the Black Hills of South Dakota offer riches in natural resources, recreation, art, and history.

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Mount Rushmore

One of the most popular American monuments, Mount Rushmore bears the 60 foot faces of four influential American Presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Mount Rushmore was intended to represent the first 150 years of American history. Each president was chosen for their contributions as well as their values they helped to instill in the US as a nation. Mount Rushmore was the brainchild of sculptor, Gutzon Borglum. It took 14 years and $900,000 to complete the project. If the presidents carved into this granite cliff were life size, they would stand 465 feet tall.

Custer State Park

Custer State Park lies in the heart of the Black Hills and offers 71,000 acres of breathtaking terrain that is home to various species of wildlife. Hiking, rock climbing, fishing, biking, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing are among the many outdoor activities that Custer State Park provides. Within the park, there is an excellent scenic drive, Needles Highway (SD 87) that winds around rock formations, and in and out of tunnels. The impressive Needles Eye, a 30-40 foot high, and 3-4 wide granite spire, stands near the exit of one tunnel. Custer State Park also offers education activities for the whole family such as guided nature walks and gold panning excursions.


The city of Deadwood in the northern Black Hills was created as the result of a gold rush in 1875. Within a year about 25,000 prospectors had fled to Deadwood to pan for gold. Much of the late 19th century wooden structures are still preserved, although a devastating fire and flood late in the century destroyed much of it. There are several museums that display Indian artifacts and gold rush memorabilia. Deadwood was named for the numerous dead trees that were found in the narrow canyon of Deadwood Gulch.

Crazy Horse Memorial

When completed, the Crazy Horse Memorial will stand 563 feet high and 641 feet long. The Crazy Horse Memorial is being carved into a granite cliff in the same fashion as Mount Rushmore. It depicts the Oglala Sioux warrior, Crazy Horse, who defeated General George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Crazy Horse was chosen for a compendium of reasons: courage, modesty, loyalty to his people, and his tragic death. Carving of the memorial began in 1939 by sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski. As to when the project will be completed, only time will tell.