Nickname: Mount Rushmore State
State bird: Ring-necked Pheasant
State flower: American Pasque Flower
Time: Central (GMT – 6) in the eastern part of the State; Mountain (GMT – 7) in the west.
The State: Tucked into the heart of the USA, the ‘Mount Rushmore State’ offers untouched nature in abundance, vast stretches of fertile prairies and early pioneer towns. Near the eastern border, Sioux Falls is the largest city in the region, and boasts its namesake waterfall, as well as the Old Courthouse Museum, St Joseph’s Cathedral, the Center for Western Studies and the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science.
On the opposite side of the State, Rapid City is the gateway to the Black Hills, with mountains, caves, forests and lakes; Wind Cave National Park; and Custer State Park, with its herd of over 1500 bison. Jewel Cave National Monument, the third-longest cave in the world, is also located at Custer.
Also in South Dakota’s southwest corner is its biggest tourist attraction by far, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, where the 18m-high (60ft) heads of four US presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln) have been blasted and carved out of the mountain. Work began on this massive ‘Shrine of Democracy’ in 1927 and took 14 years to complete. Crazy Horse Memorial, a privately funded monument, is the world’s largest mountain sculpture in progress. When completed, the carving will stand 171m (563ft) high and 195m (641ft) long. The excellent Indian Museum of North America is located at Crazy Horse Memorial and is well worth a visit.
Just to the south, the community of Hot Springs is home to Evans Plunge, the world’s largest naturally heated swimming pool and The Mammoth Site, the world’s largest concentration of Columbian and woolly mammoth bones discovered in their primary context (ie where they died). Badlands National Park encompasses 98,785 hectares (244,000 acres) of striking rock formations – steep canyons, jagged spires, bands of colourful rocks – blended with mixed-grass prairies. Campgrounds and cabins are available to visitors.
Pierre, the capital of South Dakota, is home to numerous attractions, including the South Dakota State Capitol, South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center, South Dakota World War II Memorial and South Dakota National Guard Museum. Some 48km (30 miles) north of Fort Pierre is Triple U Buffalo Ranch, the location of many scenes in the film Dances with Wolves.