Capital City: Pierre
South Dakota is an American state on the Great Plains.
South Dakota is located in the north central United States. It is bordered by North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana. The state capitol is Pierre (pronounced “peer”), which is located almost exactly in the center of the state.
South Dakota is home to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. In 1927, sculptor Gutzon Borglum came to the Black Hills to carve his masterpiece into the side of a granite mountain. Today, visitors from all over the world come to western South Dakota to see the 60-foot faces of four American Presidents.
South Dakota is a popular family vacation destination. In addition to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, other popular stops are Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Deadwood, the World’s Only Corn Palace, Badlands National Park, Fort Sisseton Historic State Park, Wall Drug and Lewis and Clark Recreation Area. In De Smet, visitors can still tour the childhood homestead of beloved “Little House on the Prairie” author Laura Ingalls Wilder. Pierre’s Cultural Heritage Center houses the Museum of the South Dakota State Historical Society, which preserves the history of the State of South Dakota and Dakota Territory.
South Dakota has a rich history going back to the days of the dinosaurs. One of the most complete T. rex skeletons was found in South Dakota and the largest collection of Columbian Wooly Mammoth fossils are still being unearthed at The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs in the southern Black Hills. Visitors to Badlands National Park can learn about what is considered to be one of the richest fossil beds in the country.
South Dakota is home to the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota-speaking people of the Great Sioux Nation. Several museums and cultural centers across the state depict the history and traditions of these people as well as display ancient artifacts and modern artwork. Across the state, visitors can explore the Native American Scenic Byway, attend a traditional powwow and experience Native American culture.
The Black Hills, called “Paha Sapa” by the Native Americans, is considered sacred ground to many tribes across the country. The Lakota Nation believes all life comes from “Paha Sapa,” and they fought fiercely to protect it during the Indian Wars of the 1800s. One of the most sacred places is Bear Butte in the northern Black Hills. This formation of magma never erupted and looks like a giant sleeping bear. Now a state park, Bear Butte is still used as a place of worship for more than 60 Native American tribes. More than 62,000 Native Americans currently live in South Dakota.
In 1874, an expedition led by General Custer discovered gold for the first time in the Black Hills and incited a gold rush. The largest find was near the town of present day Lead. In 2002, after yielding gold for more than 120 years, the Homestake Gold Mine shut down mining operations, but the location was recently named the proposed site for the National Science Foundation’s Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL). Currently, the Sanford Laboratory at Homestake is conducting experiments to demonstrate the feasibility of the site for DUSEL.
Agriculture continues to be the mainstay of South Dakota’s economy. Eastern South Dakota supports a variety of crops, while cattle and sheep ranching are prevalent on the drier, western plains. South Dakota is a leading producer of honey, oats, rye, sunflowers, spring wheat, soybeans, corn, beef cattle, hogs, buffalo and sheep.
Interstate 90 runs east to west across South Dakota, while Interstate 29 runs north to south near the eastern border. Interstate Information Centers are staffed in the summer months and offer a variety of travel and tourism information. The state has two major airports located in Rapid City in the west and Sioux Falls in the east. Rapid City is on the eastern edge of the Black Hills, approximately 25 miles from Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Sioux Falls is located at the intersection of Interstates 29 and 90. Aberdeen, Pierre and Watertown also have airports with limited service by major carriers.