Top Things to do in South Dakota

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, USA

I visited South Dakota to see a friend but ended up seeing some amazing places.  A few I had heard of previously but had no idea they were in South Dakota.  It’s a great state with lots to see.

Watertown

Lake Kampeska, Watertown, South Dakota

On my 2 month trip around the US, I decided to visit South Dakota to visit a friend I had met in Patagonia to see him and his wife.  He lived in Watertown, a small city in the East of South Dakota.  Luckily the greyhound bus made a stop here at a gas station out of town and so I got dropped off there before Bipin picked me up.

The first night Bipin and his wife Surekha took me to see Lake Kampeska which is quite near there house.  It’s a great lake for taking a walk or cycling around.  Though it is 13.5 miles around it.

Lake Kampeska, Watertown, South Dakota

The next day Surekha took me to Yoga, the first time I had ever tried.  I didn’t understand the whole breathing part but it felt good to have a good stretch.  After we had lunch before going to the Redlin Art Centre.  Terry Redlin was born in Watertown and is one of America’s most popular wildlife artists.  The centre contains most of his artwork.  It is free to visit and I really enjoyed seeing his paintings.

Redlin Art Center Watertown, South Dakota

Thanks Bipin for the pic and for letting me stay with you and Surekha, I had a great few days.  That evening we went to their friend’s for a meal and the next morning, I left to carry on my trip to Sioux Falls.

Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA

Sioux Falls is the biggest city in the state of South Dakota and the city was originally settled around the falls which is in the centre of the town.  The falls are beautiful and are lit up at night too.  There is also a 16 mile bike trail along the river.

Rapid City

After my visit to Sioux Falls I got the bus to my next stop in Rapid City. I arrived about 6pm and found that the local bus service finishes at 5.30pm and so I had to walk the 2 miles to my hotel.  Unfortunately there were no hostels in Rapid City but I did manage to get a cheap hotel/motel that had a pool!!

The next morning I then had a short walk to go pick up my car from the rental company before I headed off for the day.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, USA

I had previously seen Mount Rushmore in films and once I found out that it was in South Dakota, I knew I had to visit.  As I had just picked up a rental car in Rapid City it only took me 35 mins to drive out.  The entrance is free but it costs $10 to park.

Custer State Park

Custer State Park, South Dakota, USA

Custer State Park was one of my favourite parks in the US, but maybe that’s because it was the first time I had seen Bison, it is a great park, with a lot of wildlife.  It’s about a 40 minute drive from Rapid City or as I did it, a 45 minute drive from Mount Rushmore.  It costs $20 per vehicle into the park and this is valid for 7 days.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota USA

Crazy Horse Memorial is still a work in progress.  They began work on it in 1948 and there is no finish date as all work is funded by donations or the fees from visitors.  It costs $11 per person and an extra $4 to take the shuttle for a closer look.  Though being able to get right up to the face of Crazy Horse will set you back about $125.  On a evening there is a laser show, which is well worth staying to watch if you visit late afternoon.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA

Badlands National Park is located about an hours drive east of Rapid City.  It’s a great park to visit and see the way the landscape has been shaped over the years.  The mountains have been eroded by water over time and further on in the park is a prairie.  It costs $20 per vehicle or if you are visiting a few national parks then worth investing in the $80 annual pass as I did.

Is there any other places you have visited in South Dakota, you think should be on the list? If so, let me know.

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Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota USA

Before I visited South Dakota I had never heard of the Crazy Horse Memorial, but as I was researching what to do when I got to Rapid City I read about this place in a guide.

I knew about Crazy Horse and Lt Colonel Custer and the Battle of Little Big Horn as we had studied it in history at school, so I was intrigued to actually be in the area near to where this famous battle had occurred and to go visit the memorial to Crazy Horse.

Crazy Horse was born in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1842 and was a native american.  He fought against the US Government who were taking the land and changing the way of life of the native american people.

He is one of the most famous native americans and helped lead the assault against Custer leading to Custer’s death in 1876.  He has honoured by the US Postal Service and appeared on a stamp in 1982.

Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA

In 1939 Korczak Ziolkowski was asked to carve a memorial to the spirit of Crazy Horse which eventually began in 1948.  Korczak worked mainly on this own, until his death in 1982 when his wife Ruth took over the project, changing the focus to finishing Crazy Horse’s face so the visitors would be able to see this from the visitors centre.  6 of his children and some grandchildren now run the project.  There is no completion date known as it all depends on the number of visitors and how much money they get in as to how much work can be done on the mountain.  I was told maybe 2050, maybe later!!

I arrived at the memorial late afternoon and went straight to the information desk to find out what there was to do. At that time I had no idea that the memorial itself is so far away from the visitors centre or that it costs to see it closer.  I also did not realise that it is not funded by the government and is a non profit foundation as Korczak wished that no federal or state funds would ever be accepted to create the memorial.

The cost of entry is $11 per person or $28 for a car with more than 2 people.  If you want to see it closer there are 2 options.  The cheapest is $4 and you can get a bus from the visitors centre for a 25 minute round trip, where you get out and see a closer view.  The picture below is the closest you get from the $4 trip, but well worth doing as you get an idea of how big it is actually going to be and you can get a good view of the face head on.

Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota USA

Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA

Unfortunately on this trip you can’t get too close as it is a live working site and sometimes you can hear them doing detonations depending on the day you visit.

The 2nd option you can actually go and visit the head and face of Crazy Horse and get a close up picture, this trip though does cost $125 and needs to be booked in advance.  I have seen pictures of people stood by the face and this is when you realise just how big it actually is as the people are tiny!!  I really wanted to go do this, but as a backpacker I just couldn’t justify the cost.

It is the worlds largest mountain carving and just the head of Crazy Horse is 27 feet taller than a head at Mount Rushmore which are 60 feet high.  Once it’s finished it will be 563 feet high and 641 feet wide and it’s something I would love to see as it will look amazing carved into the rock.

After the bus tour, I then went into the visitors centre where I watched the orientation film on the history of the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is worth watching as it shows how Korczak came to live on the site and had his 10 children there, how he had to drag everything up the mountain to do blasts, to carve the rock all on his own, sometimes with the help of his children and how much it has changed now.  They now have a team of explosive experts that they can afford to employ run by Korczak’s son and his daughter runs the restaurant.

After watching the film I then went out onto the viewing veranda and watched a traditional native performance while seeing the memorial in the background.

Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA

I then had a walk around the museum and shops before stopping in the restaurant for dinner.  The food is reasonably priced and as I wanted to stay for the laser light show it made sense to sit in the restaurant looking out at the memorial until it the show started.

After dinner I went and got my spot on the viewing terrace, despite it being summer it still dropped cold on a night, so you would want a jumper!!

The show then commenced and it was great, a history of the native americans, worth seeing if you are in the area and visiting crazy horse.  At one point you can see exactly how the memorial will look when it’s completed.

Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA

After the show it was then back in the car for the drive back to Rapid City.

Crazy Horse was one of my favourite places to visit on this trip to South Dakota and I did prefer it to Mount Rushmore, it is a lot bigger and a lot more impressive.  The history behind it, of one man doing so much of it on his own, the fact that all the money used to create it has not come from any government or state funding but through donations or visitors to the site and it’s a memorial to a native american who was trying to keep his lands and way of life.

If you are in the area then it’s a great place to visit, and hopefully one day I will get to go back and see it when it’s finished.

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Read about my trip to Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota, USA. It's a memorial to a native American, trying to keep his lands and way of life.

 

 

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