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USATourist News Magazine by Elizabeth Blair
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USATourist News Magazine

September 2011 - Southwestern South Dakota

In this issue:

Welcome to the September issue of the USATourist News Magazine. This month we're visiting the state of South Dakota. The Blackhills in the western section of the state is particularly beautiful. If you're an outdoors fan, you'll be pleased with the number of biking and hiking trails - Harney Peak is the highest peak, reaching 7,242 feet, and is a favorite challenge for hikers. For those more interested in the region's scenic aspect, the area is easily accessible with pretty views along the byways. South Dakota also has several lovely towns and endless attractions and National Parks.

Freedom Trail Waterfall

The waterfall along the Freedom Trail in Hot Springs is a just one example of the natural beauty of the region.
© Beth Blair

Hot Springs

Hot Springs is one of South Dakota's charming small towns. The 1890 railroad depot has been transformed into the Visitor Center and is a great place to start your journey in the area. The galleries, coffee houses, shops, restaurants and Freedom Trail which winds its way along the banks of the Fall River (keep an eye out for the waterfall) make Hot Springs the perfect town to see by foot.

Other interesting stops in the area include the Evans Plunge with its naturally warm 87 °F (31 °C) spring water, which flows from a thermal spring at a rate of 5000 gallons a minute. They also have waterslides and indoor and outdoor pools. The nearby Mammoth Site is the world's largest mammoth research facility. At the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary you will see wild mustangs in their natural habitat and don't miss the Wind Cave National Park which features the world's largest concentration of box work which looks like honeycomb (it's recommended visitors wear tennis shoes and long sleeves). The world's second longest cave is found at Jewel Cave National Monument (13 miles from Custer, South Dakota which is north of Hot Springs).

Pay attention as you drive through the 28,295 acres of Wind Cave National Park. My family saw antelope, bison and prairie dogs during our pass through.

Hot Springs has about 400 hotel rooms, including the Best Western Sundowner Inn on South 6th Street. This hotel has an indoor heated swimming pool, free high speed internet and a free breakfast in the morning, a nice money-saving feature for travelers. Just down the street we found the casual All Star Grill and Pub which has an extensive menu including the popular buffalo burgers.

See the Bears Up Close!

During our stay in Rapid City we made a trip to Bear Country and it was fantastic. Drivers slowly cruise the 3-mile drive through 200 acres and see an array of wildlife up close including buffalo, wolves, elk, and, of course, bears. Many of the animals were only feet from our car. After the drive we walked through Babyland where guests can observe Bear Country's tiniest animals. A huge gift shop is nearby and filled with all of the typical tourist souvenirs.

Avalanche Gorge

The Avenue of Flags creates a stunning approach to the Mount Rushmore viewing area.
© Beth Blair

The Rapid City Best Western Ramkota Hotel is situated on the eastern side of Rapid City. This is a nice hotel, especially if you are traveling with kids since it has the Black Hills' largest hotel indoor water park. Hotel guests receive free admission. There isn't a free breakfast at this location but there is a full-service restaurant open for breakfast through dinner as well as a cocktail bar with a pool table.

Mount Rushmore

One of the main attractions in South Dakota is the cherished Mount Rushmore. The faces of four United States presidents were carved into the mountain side; 90% of the carving was done using dynamite. The sculpture was completed in 1941, revealing the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. You can see the monument from Highway 244, but the view after walking through the Avenue of Flags is spectacular. Admission to Mount Rushmore National Memorial is free but there is an $11 parking fee per car and that price covers an entire year which means you can return in the evening to see the lighting ceremony.

Crazy Horse

Another monument that draws crowds is Crazy Horse, created in memory of the Native American war leader of the Oglala Lakota tribe. This monument is also carved in a mountainside, thought it isn't completed. It has been under construction since 1948. Funding has been a problem for the monument, since the sculptor's family won't accept Federal funding. At this point, the project slowly moves forward by relying on visitor entry fees and donations.

Crazy Horse

At the visitor center you can view a scale model of what the completed sculpture will look like. The actual sculpture is in the background.
© Michelle Leco


East of Rapid City is Badlands National Park, a 244,000 acre span of eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires and the largest protected mixed-grass prairie in the US. Depending upon how long you wish to stay and how much you care to explore, there are two campgrounds in the Badlands (no showers) for overnights or you can take a day trip and enjoy the scenic Highway 240 Loop which takes about 60 minutes. Don't miss the Sage Creek Rim Road to Robert's Prairie dog town which takes about 30 minutes and is a great spot for viewing wildlife. The moment we pulled in we were welcomed by a herd of antelope.

Other Attractions

South Dakota, much like its neighbors North Dakota and Minnesota, has a number of roadside attractions. As you're driving to the Badlands you will notice dozens of creative Wall Drug advertisement signs. This tourist attraction is located in the town of Wall and is a shopping center with a drug store, gift shop, restaurants and a variety of photo ops such as a miniature Mount Rushmore and a giant Jackalope that kids and adults can sit on.

Wall Drug

Wall Drug has become a must-see attraction for anyone traveling along Interstate 90 in South Dakota.
© Michelle Leco

Further east is the Corn Palace, the region's multi-use center used for stage shows, sports events and a very popular tourist attraction for travelers. The corn art on the walls is recreated with a new theme every year. The first original Corn Palace tradition started in 1892. Entry is free but expect to see an assortment of corn-themed souvenirs and food for sale.

For more information on beautiful South Dakota be sure to visit South Dakota Tourism. We hope you enjoyed this issue of USATourist.com. Don't forget to connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.


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Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair

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