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Learn about the Black Hills of South Dakota, by reading Black Hills, South Dakota – Badlands and Good Touring by Charlie Spence, WTA Member and Leisure Traveler/Writer. It features a mini, but thorough tour of the destination, plus all you'll need to know to plan your trip including how to get there, objective information on places to stay and eat, and things to do. At the end of the article, we've provided a summary of the contact information for your easy reference. Enjoy!

Black Hills, South Dakota—Badlands and Good Touring

by Charlie Spence, WTA Member and Travel Writer

A visit to the South Dakota Black Hills provides awesome vistas and downright Badlands livin’, partner!  If flying in, you’ll arrive at the Rapid City airport and then drive north on highway 90. At Sturgis, take 14A back to the wild and wooly west.

About 13 miles from Sturgis—through forests that are amazingly lush and beautiful—you arrive at the only place in the world where the entire town is a National Historic District. Deadwood began as a lawless camp of get-rich-quick prospectors. At the time, it featured saloons, dance halls, card parlors and bodacious bawdy houses.

Today the town is almost the same. Although Deadwood might sound like an adults-only community, children enjoy being a part of this living Old West. Historic Main Street itself is a main attraction. Structures of the 1880s along about five blocks of Main Street were rescued from the verge of extinction to become Deadwood’s principle gambling district. Choose from about 80 gambling halls—most retaining the Old West ambiance—for blackjack, slots, and poker. Even if gambling is not your thing, take the whole family into Old Style Saloon #10. Step inside and you are a part of that memorable day when Jack McCall gunned down Wild Bill Hickok as that dastardly deed is reenacted. This is the only museum in the world that has a bar. Outside on Main Street, witness the shoot-out and vigilantes hauling Wild Bill’s killer off to the most rollicking trial you’ve ever witnessed.

You can slowly climb to “Boot Hill”—another national landmark—while imagining you are part of Hickok’s funeral procession, and see where he and Calamity Jane are buried. These tombstones and others like local legends Preacher Smith, prospector Potato Creek Johnny, and Madam Dora DuFran bring to mind the dangers and tragedies of those early Dakota days.

Take a free walking tour of Deadwood or get aboard one of the mini-buses and let a rambunctious driver-guide recall the days of the Badlands, Deadwood’s Chinatown, railroad, and mining. Try your hand at mining at the Broken Boot Gold Mine. Follow the ore car rails into the tunnels blasted more than 100 years ago. The mine was reopened in 1954 after being dormant for more than a half a century. Like most prospectors, you might find the pickin’s slim for gold, but you can receive a souvenir stock certificate in the mine.

After soaking up the rough and tumble life of historic Deadwood, drive about four miles west to Lead (folks around there pronounce it “Leed.”) This gold rush town, founded in 1876, boasted one of the richest gold veins ever unearthed. The elegant Victorian mansions testify to the opulence that this town knew in the booming mine days. If you failed to strike it rich at the Broken Boot Mine, try panning for gold at Lead’s Black Hills Mining Museum.

Follow highway 14A around through Sugar Mountain, Cheyenne Crossing, and Savoy to Spearfish. It takes you through some of the most beautiful forested mountains that you could ever visit. Limestone cliffs tower over Spearfish canyon. A forest of spruce, pine, aspen, birch, and oak covers the hillside.

This unique area is in the west-central part of South Dakota, north of Rapid City. Summer months are more favorable for sightseeing. If you are a winter sports buff, this area offers two ski areas and hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails with rentals available.

Details

Where to stay

You have a wide choice of accommodations ranging from luxury bed and breakfasts through modest-priced motels to Victorian hotels and kitchen suites. Take your pick from more than five dozen facilities in the towns in the surrounding canyon. In Deadwood, the All Seasons Motel, on the trolley route has rooms from $25 to $70. At the Hickok House, rates range from $50 to $100. If you want a more secluded area, travel about seven miles south toward Spearfish for the Black Hills Hideaway Bed and Breakfast where most rooms have fireplaces and private hot tubs for $89 to $169. You can get more information and make reservations through the web site www.deadwood.org/lodge.htm. You can also book your travel through WTA’s online travel booking service.

Where to eat

In Deadwood, the Horseshoe restaurant serves a 19-oz T-bone for about eight bucks. The Franklin Hotel on Main Street sports South Dakota’s oldest restaurant where steaks and a full menu are served in a 1903 setting. Big Al’s Buffalo Steak House is right on Main Street. In Spearfish you’ll find Appleby’s KFC, Perkins, and B&Bs. Wherever you stop, take along a big appetite.

Notice: This information is current as of April 2002. It is recommended that you contact the numbers, and/or visit the websites above to determine any changes to the information.