Posts Tagged With: South Dakota

Deadwood to Devils Tower

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.

 

References:

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

 

Categories: Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Bad. Badlands.

My Bad.  I’m guilty of giving short shrift to this incredible natural wonder located in South Dakota just 560 miles from my home, a relatively short drive in the U.S.  I admit I haven’t really gone TO the Badlands as much as I’ve gone THROUGH the Badlands on my way to somewhere else, namely Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills.  So, in an effort to rectify my travel transgression, I wanted to spend the night in this national park and take some time exploring the area.  That’s easier said than done because accommodations in the park are few and far between and normally booked WAY in advance.  Within the park, there’s Cedar Pass Lodge and that’s it.  Seriously.  Cedar Pass Lodge is the only place to stay in the park.  OK, you can camp but we’re past that stage of life so I’m talking about places with real beds.  As I write this, I checked the website for Cedar Pass Lodge and currently there is limited availability in July and August, but September is still wide open.  That was not the case, however, in September, 2013, when we visited.

There were no available rooms at Cedar Pass Lodge but they kindly referred me to a bed and breakfast, the Circle View Guest Ranch.  (You can check it out by clicking on it.)  Luckily, they had a room available.  Although the ranch isn’t technically in Badlands National Park, it’s within several miles so you have essentially the same views.  The room was comfortable and we even had extra bunk beds which would be great for a family.  The views from Circle View were 360 degrees as promised and the friendly burros were a nice addition, too.  I admit we didn’t take advantage of any of the other working aspects of the ranch because we stayed just one night and we were anxious to get on our way.  We had a generous breakfast, served in the kitchen at long communal tables, where we visited with our neighbors while we chowed down on eggs, bacon, pancakes, potatoes, fruit, juice, and coffee, then off we went to explore Badlands National Park.

 

The Badlands are the product of erosion at its best.  It’s hard to believe this remarkable 60 mile swath of sedimentary ridges, buttes, and pinnacles, called the wall, was carved by erosion that began 500,000 years ago and continues to this day at about one inch per year.  At this rate, the Badlands are projected to erode away completely in another 500,000 years.  There are also mammal fossil beds found here, among the world’s richest, that are 26 to 37 million years old.  The Badlands, established as a national monument in 1939 and designated a national park in 1978, receive 1 million visitors per year.  A seven-day pass per vehicle costs only $15, but if you’re at least 62 years old, you can get a lifetime pass for only $10 that gets you into all U.S. national parks.  Now that’s a deal!

We stopped at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and saw the award-winning video about the Badlands, then viewed the exhibits within the center and learned that there are big horn sheep, American bison, mule deer, coyote, swift fox, and black-footed ferret within the 244,00 acres of the park. After leaving the visitor center, we did see big horn sheep on the hills but none of the other animals.  We pulled over at several of the numerous viewing stops along the Highway 240 Loop Road to take some photos and enjoy the views and ended at Wall Drug, the iconic retail outlet that still offers free ice water.

Welcome to Wall Drug

Welcome to Wall Drug

So, in the final analysis, did I give the Badlands its due attention?  In all honesty, for me it’s still a stop along the way to points further west but at least I feel that I gave it a fair share of my attention this time around.

Categories: Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

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