Travel with us to South Dakota, in mid-western America’s belt. Named after the Lakota, Dakota Sioux native American people, it is a region steeped in history back to prehistoric days.
BY DANIELLE LANCASTER
Badlands National Park
The striking and rugged beauty of Badlands is considered one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Covering 244,000 acres (over 98,000 hectares) the park protects bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets. In spring, young wildlife frolic and play as they learn the pecking order of their mob.
Take the Badlands Scenic Byway and drive through some of them most impressive prairie countryside and canyons in the country. Jagged pinnacles, spires and mazes of buttes will have you continually pulling the camera out. Stop and wander along one of the many trails that take you into the heart of this amazing landscape.
Where there is a sign that says ‘Lookout’, trust me and stop. Sunset from one of the many craggy viewpoints with wild bison grazing far below or the first rays of light hitting the peaks are a treasure to view.
Tatanka, the Lakota word meaning ‘bull buffalo’, is a tribute to the bison that once roamed the great plains of North America. Almost hunted to extinction, this mighty beast is held in high regard by Native Americans.
Learn about the 100-plus uses of the bison by the Native Americans in the hands-open interpretative centre, take the short walk and admire the 14 life size bronze bison sculptures being chased by a group of Native Americans, purchase a memento in the gift shop and meet locals proud of their indigenous history.
Only one mile north of Deadwood, the centre was a gift from Kevin Costner and is open from May 15 to September 30 from 9am to 5pm daily. Admission fees apply, unless you 5 years and younger.
On its way to being America’s largest stone sculpture, Crazy Horse is a privately funded outdoor on-going artwork. Commenced by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear in 1948, the sculpture is taking the shape of Lakota leader Crazy Horse.
When finally completed it will reach 195 metres (641 feet) high and be 172 metres (563 feet) high. Family members along with a dedicated view continue working on the sculpture as you view it.
Allow a day here as there are shows to enjoy and the Indian Museum of North America to view. Dine at the Laughing Water Restaurant featuring Native American cuisine on the menu along with wandering the craft and art stalls to study for that special souvenir.
Among the most popular events at Crazy Horse Memorial are the two night blasts held traditionally each year. During a spectacular blast the mountain is lit up with incredible fireballs and specially designed pyrotechnical features. The next scheduled is for June 26, 2017.
For what you see and can enjoy there is a fair admission fee with children 6 and under free.
For not the sign, you’d think you are pulling into someone’s home and really, you are. Family photos fill the walls, including some of Nicolas Black Elk, medicine man and warrior of the Native American Oglala Lakota tribe, who was owner’s Bette’s great-grandfather.
The menu includes fried chicken, burgers, a chef’s salad and soup either served in the family home in front of the fire or outdoors overlooking pine fringed hills where once her grandfather rode.
It’s a good home-cooked meal and welcome you will receive. Family members will often join Bette in the kitchen as she prepares your feast. She is happy for you to sit and chat as she stirs and tosses today’s lunch and talks of life in South Dakota.
Buffalo Round Up – Custer State Park
Yearly in September the world’s largest publicly-owned bison herd, nearly 1,300 strong is mustered into the corals. Amongst thundering hooves and dust, cowboys and cow girls coerce the mob past a cheering crowd.
Once settled, the animals go through important vet checks while the public have time to meet the riders and enjoy a day out on the rolling prairies.
Bob Lantis, Trail Boss of the ride will not take any convincing for a yarn, as will all the other riders. Miss South Dakota, a flag carrier for the ride, is by far the most glamorous. It’s a perfect event to get up close and meet the men and women of America’s mid-west.
Wounded Knee Massacre Site
One of the bloodiest massacres in the history of America, this mass burial ground on top of the ridge is indeed a humbling experience to visit. Consider taking a guided tour to learn more about the times back in 1890 when life was very different to today.
A visit to South Dakota could not include seeing America’s national monument with the figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, lovingly carved from stone and surrounded by the beautiful Black Hills.
It’s estimated over 3 million people each year visit the site with the busiest months being June to August.
We recommend visiting early in the morning when the crowds are less and for the best photograph as the sun hits the faces.
This is only a sample of what to see and do in South Dakota in the USA. Our next 7 are for shopping and dining!