Pierre is the capital city of South Dakota, located in Hughes County. The history of Pierre is closely tied to the development of the state of South Dakota itself.
Pierre was founded in 1880 as a small trading post by fur trader and entrepreneur Pierre Chouteau Jr., for whom the city was named. It was strategically located on the east bank of the Missouri River, near the center of the state. The area had been inhabited for thousands of years by various Native American tribes before European settlers arrived.
When South Dakota became a state in 1889, Pierre was chosen as the state capital due to its central location. The state government officially moved there from the previous capital, Yankton, in 1889. This decision was somewhat controversial, as Yankton had been the territorial capital and some felt it should remain the state capital.
Throughout its history, Pierre has played a significant role in South Dakota's political, economic, and cultural life. The city has grown and developed, becoming a hub for government, commerce, and education in the region.
Today, Pierre remains the capital of South Dakota and is known for its scenic beauty, particularly along the Missouri River, as well as its rich history and outdoor recreational opportunities. The South Dakota State Capitol, completed in 1910, is a prominent landmark in the city and a symbol of the state's government.
Top Tourist Attractions
The City offers several attractions for visitors interested in history, nature, and culture. Here are some of the top tourist attractions in and around Pierre:
- South Dakota State Capitol: This impressive building is the seat of government for the state of South Dakota. It's known for its neoclassical architecture and beautiful murals inside.
- Fighting Stallions Memorial: Located near the State Capitol, this memorial commemorates the lives of four South Dakota citizens who died in a plane crash in 1972.
- Oahe Dam and Lake Oahe: Located just north of Pierre, the Oahe Dam created Lake Oahe, one of the largest reservoirs in the United States. It offers opportunities for boating, fishing, camping, and wildlife viewing.
- Pierre Players Community Theatre: This local theater group puts on a variety of live performances throughout the year, including plays, musicals, and other cultural events.
- Cultural Heritage Center: This museum offers a comprehensive overview of South Dakota's history, from its Native American roots to its development as a state.
- LaFramboise Island Nature Area: This scenic area is located in the heart of Pierre, providing opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and enjoying the natural beauty of the Missouri River.
- Steamboat Park Amphitheater: This outdoor amphitheater hosts various events and concerts, especially during the summer months.
- Verendrye Museum: Located in nearby Fort Pierre, this museum focuses on the history of the region, including the Lewis and Clark expedition and early fur trading.
- The South Dakota Discovery Center and Aquarium: This science and learning center is great for families and features interactive exhibits on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) topics.
- Candyland: Located in downtown Pierre, this family-owned confectionery shop is known for its handcrafted chocolates, candies, and ice cream.
- Trail of Governors: This walking tour showcases life-sized bronze statues of past South Dakota governors, providing a unique way to learn about the state's political history.
- Pierre Regional Airport: For aviation enthusiasts or those interested in transportation, the airport offers opportunities for plane spotting.
These attractions offer a diverse range of experiences, from outdoor activities to cultural and historical exploration. Whether you're interested in nature, history, or simply enjoying the local culture, Pierre has something to offer for every visitor.
The City experiences a continental climate characterized by distinct seasons. Here's an overview of the climate in Pierre:
- Summer (June to August): Summers in Pierre are warm to hot, with average high temperatures ranging from the upper 80s to mid-90s Fahrenheit (around 30-35°C). Humidity levels are generally moderate, though occasional periods of higher humidity may occur. Thunderstorms are fairly common during the summer months, bringing occasional rainfall.
- Fall (September to November): Fall in Pierre sees a gradual decrease in temperatures. Early fall can be pleasantly mild, with average highs in the 70s°F (around 20-25°C), while late fall temperatures can drop significantly. Fall foliage can be quite scenic, especially along the Missouri River.
- Winter (December to February): Winters in Pierre are cold and can be quite harsh. Average high temperatures range from the 20s to low 30s°F (-4 to 2°C). Snowfall is common, with an average annual snowfall of around 42 inches (107 cm). Sub-freezing temperatures are frequent, and periods of extreme cold are possible.
- Spring (March to May): Spring is a transitional season in Pierre. Early spring can be quite chilly, with temperatures gradually warming as the season progresses. Average highs range from the 40s to 60s°F (4-20°C) during this period. Spring is also the season of rapid snowmelt, which can lead to rising water levels in nearby rivers.
It's worth noting that South Dakota, including Pierre, can experience rapid and sometimes extreme weather changes, so it's advisable for visitors to be prepared for a range of conditions, especially during the winter months. Additionally, Pierre's proximity to the Missouri River can influence local weather patterns, and the city occasionally experiences spring flooding due to snowmelt and heavy rainfall. Overall, Pierre's climate offers a mix of seasonal experiences, from warm summers to cold winters, providing a diverse range of activities and opportunities for visitors throughout the year.
The City is situated in a region characterized by its natural beauty and diverse geography. Here's an overview of the geography of Pierre and its surrounding area:
- Missouri River: One of the most prominent features of Pierre's geography is its location along the eastern bank of the Missouri River. The river flows north to south, and Pierre's position on the river provides scenic views and recreational opportunities.
- Rolling Plains: The area around Pierre is characterized by rolling plains and gently undulating terrain. This landscape is typical of the Great Plains region of the United States.
- Bad River: The Bad River, a tributary of the Missouri River, flows near Pierre. It adds to the local geography and provides opportunities for outdoor activities such as fishing and kayaking.
- Oahe Dam and Lake Oahe: Located just north of Pierre, the Oahe Dam created Lake Oahe, one of the largest reservoirs in the United States. This large body of water provides opportunities for boating, fishing, and other water-related activities.
- Islands: Pierre is surrounded by several islands in the Missouri River, including LaFramboise Island and Farm Island. These islands add to the natural beauty and recreational opportunities of the area.
- Grasslands and Prairie: Beyond the immediate vicinity of the river, the landscape is characterized by grasslands and prairie. This type of vegetation is common in the Great Plains and is home to a variety of wildlife.
- Coteau des Prairies: To the east of Pierre, the landscape rises into the Coteau des Prairies, a plateau-like area that separates the Great Plains from the eastern woodlands of the United States.
- Farming and Agriculture: Agriculture is an important part of the local economy, and the surrounding area is dotted with farms and ranches.
- Pierre Hills: To the west of Pierre, you can find the Pierre Hills, a series of low hills that add to the area's topographical diversity.
Overall, Pierre's geography combines the natural beauty of the Missouri River, rolling plains, and the nearby Oahe Dam and Lake Oahe, creating a diverse landscape that offers a range of outdoor activities and scenic vistas for residents and visitors alike.