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A Black Hills Bonanza

Natural splendor in South Dakota



 



“There’s gold in them thar hills!” was the motto of the first rush of non-Native visitors to the Black Hills. The metal motive fizzled, but the scenic attractions of the western third of South Dakota kept the visitors coming.
 

The Black Hills are part of an ancient mountain chain covered with dark green pine trees that look black from a distance. The area’s appeal was kicked up a notch with the addition of the sculptures on Mount Rushmore. Today, tourists come to marvel at the memorial, enjoy national parks, watch wildlife and motorcycle through the mountains.

South Dakota is like a good buffet – the choices are nigh overwhelming. Here are some of my recommendations – mix and match at your leisure, and then consider coming back for another visit.

 

Start your exploration in the charming little town of Hot Springs, home to the Mammoth Site, a massive excavation area where more than five dozen mammoth skeletons have been discovered. Also in the area is the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, where you can see wild mustangs – descendants of Spanish horses and Choctaw ponies – running free across the prairie.

Wind Cave National Park is home to attractions above and below the ground. The prairie over the cavern is a sanctuary for native species whose numbers have dwindled over decades; bison, elk, antelope, mule deer and prairie dogs now re-inhabit the landscape. Wind Cave inhales and exhales like a living being through a small opening, and its original entrance was thought to be the birthplace of the Lakota Nation. Although lacking spectacular stalactites and stalagmites, Wind Cave is noted for boxwork, sheets of geometric deposits.

Another option in the area is exploring the beautiful calcite crystals, boxwork, drapery, stalactites and stalagmites of Jewel Cave National Monument. Several different tours are offered. The most popular, the Scenic Tour, involves going up and down 723 steps – the equivalent of 40 flights of stairs. Other options include a wheelchair-accessible tour, historic lantern tour and wild caving tour.

 

Sometimes scenery just isn’t enough. That was the thought of South Dakota historian Doane Robinson that led him to contact sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who was working on Stone Mountain in Georgia. Robinson envisioned the Needles, granite spires in the area, being carved into the likenesses of Western heroes. Borglum had his own idea – a panorama of presidents carved into a mountainside. The work took 14 years, 400 workers, almost $1 million and a lot of dynamite before its completion in 1941. It was finally, officially, dedicated as Mount Rushmore National Memorial on July 4, 1991, at the 50th anniversary celebration.


Scenic drives abound in this area and include the Needles Highway with its granite steeples and girdle-tight tunnels, and Iron Mountain Road, a favorite with motorcyclists for its pigtail bridges. Custer State Park deserves at least a day’s exploration. More than a thousand bison roam through the park’s 71,000 acres, along with pronghorn antelope, mountain goats, elk and burros.

Also in the area is the work-in-progress Crazy Horse Memorial. Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski worked on Mount Rushmore and was invited by Chief Standing Bear to create a memorial to Native Americans. Work began in 1948. Ziolkowski died in 1982, but family members continue to work on his creation.

 

The northern portion of the Black Hills highlights the region’s mining history. The gold rush started in Deadwood, which grew from a rough mining camp into a rowdy town with legends such as Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane figuring in the city’s history. Today, gamblers come to the casinos to hit it rich. Tourists looking for other treasures will find interesting museums, a trip-back-in-time townscape and Kevin Costner’s Tatanka – a museum and outdoor exhibitions dedicated to the Lakota and the bison.

Nearby, Lead sits atop what was one of the richest gold veins ever discovered. Learn more at the Black Hills Mining Museum and stop at the Homestake Visitor Center for a tour. The Homestake Mine grew from an 1876 mining claim into a huge operation until 2002.

A drive on the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is a great way to head north to I-90 and a quick detour to a site too close to skip. Across the state line in Wyoming is Devils Tower National Monument. I’m probably dating myself, but I’ve wanted to see this geologic wonder ever since I watched Richard Dreyfuss mold a mashed potato mountain in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I was not disappointed.

 

Heading back east on I-90, we had a couple more South Dakota treats in store. First was Wall – the tiny town with the really big drug store. Growing from free ice water and nickel coffee to draw tourists off the highway in 1931 to a roadside must-see, Wall Drug combines non-stop shopping with interesting – sometimes odd – displays and attractions, everything from donuts to dinosaurs.

Not far south of Wall is an entrance to Badlands National Park. Pioneers must have gotten an awful shock as they came across the prairie only to find it falling away into a landscape of barren hills and hoodoos. The drive through the park revealed mile after mile of desert-like scenery, punctuated by a few bighorn sheep. As the sun went down, the colors deepened into rich reds, yellows, even lavender.

We spent the night in one of the few cabins in the park – Cedar Pass Lodge – and I awoke in time to watch the sunrise. I drove alone, stopping at overlooks, breathing fresh morning air, hearing nothing but the wind. The changing light made magic on the scene.

What an amazing finish to a trip filled with wonders. And like a great Chinese meal, I’m already ready for more.

 

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Calendar

September 2019

Start your Sunday morning by perfecting your practice during our outdoor yoga class. Enjoy the beauty of yoga outdoors in the glow of the Ferris Wheel lights! This class welcomes all levels, from...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wheeler Ferris Wheel
1701 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73109
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Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Telephone: 405.236.3100
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A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

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Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
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Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

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Art Moments 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Enjoy a variety of 10-minute spotlight talks throughout the galleries to introduce different works in the Museum’s temporary exhibitions or permanent...

Cost: Free with Museum admisison

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National Cowboy Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
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Cost: 40.00

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Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Rep
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

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Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

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A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Vanessa House Beer Co.
118 NW 8th Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405-475-3782
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Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

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Cost: FREE

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NorthCare
2617 General Pershing Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
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Sponsor: NorthCare
Telephone: 405-858-2706
Contact Name: Kaitlynn Wilkinson
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Cost: Free

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FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers of Oklahoma City
7415 N May Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73116
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Sponsor: FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers of Oklahoma City
Telephone: 405-400-8909
Contact Name: Sean
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Join us Thursday, Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m. when Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame inductee Justin Echols helps to kick off the 19th season of the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma’s acclaimed...

Cost: Free

Where:
USAO Ballroom
1727 W. Alabama Ave.
Chickasha, OK  73018
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Sponsor: University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma
Telephone: 405-574-1310
Contact Name: Katie Davis
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EVERY BRILLIANT THING strikes a delicate balance between sobering loss and cathartic laughter as it recounts a life lived in the shadow of suicide.  By Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe,...

Cost: 40.00

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
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Sponsor: Oklahoma City Rep
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

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Cost: $35-$40

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OCCC Visual and Performing Arts Center
7777 South May Ave
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The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

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Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
Bricktown
Oklahoma City, OK


Sponsor: Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co.
Telephone: 405-740-9618
Contact Name: Jessica Gwinner
Website »

More information

Produced and Organized, Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co. presents an all-Oklahoma, all-Original Music festival located in Bricktown. This is a free event for the community, featuring Oklahoma-original...

Cost: free

Where:
Bricktown
Oklahoma City, OK


Sponsor: Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co.
Telephone: 405-740-9618
Contact Name: Jessica Gwinner
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and, quite possibly, an amazing...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

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Join us for a night of music under the Ferris Wheel lights. Enjoy live music from Saint Loretto, Flock of Pigs, and Sophia Massad. Come hungry: Taco Nation, Wicked Hangry, Cook'n It...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wheeler Ferris Wheel
1701 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73109
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The Barber of Seville Rossini’s comic masterpiece comes to the Freede Little Theater! When Count Almaviva and his love Rosina run into an issue preventing them from being married -...

Cost: $35 or $50. Prices do not include fees.

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Painted Sky Opera
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

EVERY BRILLIANT THING strikes a delicate balance between sobering loss and cathartic laughter as it recounts a life lived in the shadow of suicide.  By Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe,...

Cost: 40.00

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Rep
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

With Special Guest Joe Robinson “If you like guitar playing, it simply doesn’t get any better than Tommy.” – Jason Isbell Tommy Emmanuel has achieved enough musical...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Hudiburg Chevrolet Cneter
6000 Prosper Blvd
Midwest City, OK  73110
View map »


Sponsor: Emporium Presents
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

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The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

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Cost: $15

Where:
Memorial Park
204 N Main St
Hennessey, OK  73742
View map »


Sponsor: Hennessey United
Telephone: 580-484-1682
Contact Name: Angela Bruner
Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Sheraton Oklahoma City Downtown Hotel
1, N Broadway Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »

More information

Produced and Organized, Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co. presents an all-Oklahoma, all-Original Music festival located in Bricktown. This is a free event for the community, featuring Oklahoma-original...

Cost: free

Where:
Bricktown
Oklahoma City, OK


Sponsor: Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co.
Telephone: 405-740-9618
Contact Name: Jessica Gwinner
Website »

More information

Produced and Organized, Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co. presents an all-Oklahoma, all-Original Music festival located in Bricktown. This is a free event for the community, featuring Oklahoma-original...

Cost: free

Where:
Bricktown
Oklahoma City, OK


Sponsor: Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co.
Telephone: 405-740-9618
Contact Name: Jessica Gwinner
Website »

More information

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Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and, quite possibly, an amazing...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

EVERY BRILLIANT THING strikes a delicate balance between sobering loss and cathartic laughter as it recounts a life lived in the shadow of suicide.  By Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe,...

Cost: 40.00

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Rep
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

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