We made a quick stop in Deadwood then drove the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway on our way to Devil’s Tower, Wyoming. Although the comprehensive website, www.deadwood.org, invites visitors to come see what’s new in historic Deadwood, I only wanted to see what’s old. Having been there before, I remembered that Deadwood sprang up when gold was discovered in 1874 and that Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed there in 1876 while playing poker. What I’d forgotten is that the town was destroyed several times due to fire, the first time in 1879. Consequently, historic buildings burned down and weren’t necessarily rebuilt where they stood previously. Such is the case with the saloon where Wild Bill was shot. Saloon No. 10 is now located across the street so there are signs to show where Wild Bill was actually shot and where his killer, Jack McCall, was captured.
Although Saloon No. 10 is not in its original location, the main attraction in the new site is still the shooting of Wild Bill. Well, maybe the main attractions are drinking and gambling but this historical event does get attention. The chair where Wild Bill sat with his back to the door, against his better judgement, is encased here along with a display of the cards he held at the time of his death, forever dubbed the Dead Man’s Hand. There is agreement that he held black aces and eights but the fifth card is in question. Although the display case in Saloon No. 10 contains a nine of diamonds, other accounts list the fifth card as a jack of diamonds or an unknown card.
There are lots of great things to see and do in the Black Hills but we selected just a few this time because of time constraints. In previous trips we visited Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, and Mammoth Site. My husband and younger son did a father son bonding trip several years ago and went trail riding at Country Charm Cabins and Corrals. I highly recommend all of these places.
The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is a beautiful drive with several worthwhile stops along the way.
It’s just 2o miles long but it packs some great scenery into a short drive. We were intent on finding the campsite in the canyon where we camped in our youth and we actually found it quite easily along with a film site from the final scene of the movie, Dances With Wolves. We also stopped at Roughlock Falls and Bridal Falls before ending the scenic drive at the town of Spearfish, S.D. just 60 miles from our next stop at Devil’s Tower, Wyoming.
By chance, however, traveling along Interstate 90 we spotted a sign announcing Vore Buffalo Jump just off the freeway, so a short side trip was in order. Vore Buffalo Jump is a natural sinkhole used by the Plains Indians to trap bison. The Indians would stampede the bison in the direction of the hole and the bison tumbled to their death. The bison were then used for food, shelter, clothing, tools and even medicine for the Plains Indians.
Although the visitor’s center was closed for the season, we were able to walk around the area and read the signs. The site was discovered in the early 1970’s when Interstate 90 was constructed. Sinkholes are inherently incompatible with roads because of their tendency to settle further and swallow up cars, so the route for the road was altered. Soon thereafter, archeologists from the University of Wyoming began excavating the area. In 1989, the Vore family donated the area to the University of Wyoming and in 2001, the Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation was created (vorebuffalojump.org).
Devils Tower was the first national monument in the United States, established in 1906 by proclamation of President Theodore Roosevelt. Called Bear Lodge by Native Americans, the igneous intrusion was named Devils Tower by Colonel Richard Dodge in 1875 when he led a military expedition to investigate claims of gold in the Black Hills. The first ascent of the column occurred in 1893 and if you look closely, you can still see remnants of the wooden ladder on the side of the Tower. Today, around 5,000 rock climbers come from all over the world each year to climb the monolith (Devils Tower Official Map and Guide). Several trails of varying length offer outstanding views of the landmark and surrounding landscape, as well as the abundant wildlife. You’ll also notice Native American prayer bundles around the area with signs directing that they not be disturbed. The prairie dog town just outside the monument entrance is a fun stop for kids of all ages.
By the way, did you wonder if Devils should have an apostrophe? The official proclamation in 1906 mistakenly omitted the apostrophe so they kept it that way. If you haven’t been to Devils Tower, add it to your list. Even if you’re not a rock climber, it’s a great place to visit.
Vore Buffalo Jump, retrieved from http://www.vorebuffalojump.org
Devil’s Tower Official Map and Guide, brochure, (n.d.) National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior
Based on events of September, 2013