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America’s vast wilderness, the Great Plains, attracted pioneers and adventure-seekers. Many found their destinies on the South Dakota prairie. Discover their history and legends at sites across the state. Two French brothers, named Verendrye, left the first written record of white men in South Dakota. In 1743, they buried a lead plate on a Missouri River bluff, claiming the region for their king. The plate is on display at Pierre’s Cultural Heritage Center. Cartographer Joseph Nicollet mapped the land between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in 1838-39. One of his favorite locations was the “Coteau des Prairies” of northeastern South Dakota. Today, Nicollet Tower, a 75-foot Douglas fir tower near Sisseton, offers a bird’s-eye view of the magical prairie that Nicollet so admired
Laura Ingalls Wilder moved to Dakota Territory in 1879. Her Pa filed a claim outside De Smet, the Little Town on the Prairie made famous in Laura’s books. You can visit 18 sites around De Smet, including the Ingalls homestead site. Potato Creek Johnny reportedly discovered the largest gold nugget in the Black Hills. A replica of this famed nugget is on display at Deadwood’s Adams Museum. Outlaw Jesse James escaped a pursuing posse by jumping Devil’s Gulch, a 20-foot-wide chasm near Garretson. Relive Jesse’s famous leap, when you walk the footbridge that now crosses the chasm.
The Old West begins in South Dakota, land of gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok and legendary bronc rider, Casey Tibbs. Get a taste of the Old West by checking out the activities below.
Hop in the saddle for the trail ride of a lifetime! Explore places like the mysterious Badlands and colorful Sica Hollow. See the Services Directory in the back of the Vacation Guide for trail-ride providers. They’re listed by city.
Enjoy Western-style dining at its best. A traditional chuckwagon supper consists of barbecued beef, baked potatoes, Western baked beans and baking-powder biscuits. Many suppers end with Western music shows. See the Services Directory in the back of the Vacation Guide for chuckwagon supper providers. They’re listed by city.
Rodeos offer rip-roaring fun! Riders test their skills in exciting steer-wrestling, bull-riding and calf-roping competitions. See the South Dakota Calendar of Events for specific dates and locations.
For a genuine Western vacation, try a farm or ranch stay. You’ll experience country living by helping with daily chores, taking nature walks and trail rides, wildlife watching and much more. See the Services Directory in the back of the Vacation Guide for farm and ranch vacation providers. They’re listed by city.