We planned to visit South Dakota to see family as well as check off some big bucket list items! Last year we traveled through North Dakota so this trip was to focus on the southern sister. It is the true wild and rich prairie from the eastern border with big farms and grain production prevalent complimented by cattle grazing lazily in the sun. As we approached the state’s center and began seeing Wall Drug signs we knew the Badlands were getting close.
We planned to take a day to visit the famous store which offers lots to buy in a museum atmosphere and Badlands National Park once we were settled in Rapid City KOA.
Wall Drug defies explanation in reality and you just gotta stop fir ice cream or lunch or just a free cup of water. It’s over 80 years old and has displays of cattle branding, amazing cowboy memorabilia as well as leather items. and Native American goods for sale. The people are very friendly and accommodating. One fellow gave us some good suggestions for visiting the Badlands. We also ran into a fellow traveler from my sister Margot’s home town school – Williston- he had a school shirt on so we compared dates to see if he knew my nephew, Colin but he graduated after him. Small world isn’t it?
The Badlands are different than all the surrounding landscapes with colorful rock exposed by millions of years of erosion. The red bands along the top are over 200 million years old. The park has a buffalo or bison herd – several of which greater us at the Park Gate as well as plentiful bighorn sheep and a number of prairie dogs towns
Drive through the park and stop at all the turnoffs to see wildlife and amazing landscapes – it looks like another planet – something out of Star Wars. It’s greener in the park this year because of all the rain in spring. Makes for a cool contrast against the wild colored rocks.
Bighorn sheep travel in families with new kids born this spring – they are so sure footed on the cliffs and precipices – you admire their balance is something to see.
Prairie dogs rock – we could watch them forever. Their communities are so full of life and activity it’s hard to move on.
Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument were our destinations the following day. Both define awesome and should not be missed.
The approach to Rushmore has been jazzed up with columns and flags – some don’t line it but I thought it was well done. The movie and museum are a worthwhile stop to get the background on the designer and the work.
It’s fun to see before and after pictures of the mountain and to see how the images changed from the original idea. The designer died before it was finalized so his son finished it – making the grand accomplishment a family affair. It is a beautiful recognition of the four presidents who were most significant in their leadership thus inspiring, and making a reality our republic with liberty, freedom and pursuit of happiness for all.
Although long from complete, this monument to the revered chief is remarkable and a labor of love too. One family – originally from Poland, has been designing and working on the monument since 1940 – hired by the chief of the nation – they committed themselves to its completion with no government assistance – it is funded by entrance fees of $10 per person in each car and a variety of other fundraising techniques. There is a foundation located on the site which has built a school of medicine for Native American students. It’s a sacred mountain and there is a feeling of reverence about the monument. The Chief’s face is visible now and someday it will include his horse and his arm and hand pointing to the land they loved. Below is a model of the finished sculpture.
Tomorrow we will talk about the second half of our visit – it was equally exciting – we checked off a big bucket list item and we had Rick’s cousins family for our local lore guides. We took a lot more photos while touring the historical cities around Rapid City.
We also enjoyed several terrific restaurants in Rapid City – which is vibrant young city with a lot of citywide events and programs. From quaint to hip or really rocking – all these marvelous places served wonderful meals and had superb service – Vertex in the Alex Johnson Hotel, Kol Kitchen, and MLurphy’s Pub, Cheyenne Crossing Cafe, and finally the Dakotah Steakhouse.
It’s the city of Presidents – statues of all the President’s are on the street corners and they are remarkable likenesses. You can recognize them by their clothes, accessories or mannerisms. It’s a unique celebration of our history.
More in our next post. Enjoy South Dakota as we did!