We chose South Dakota as our place of residency for purely practical reasons. It is only a little over four hours away from our youngest daughter. So, if we need to take care of any business we can do so while visiting her family without a major trek. Secondly it is affordable, no income tax and low insurance rates. It was also very easy to establish residency. We spent one night there, went to the Driver’s License place and got our licenses. Then we went to the County Treasurer’s office and licensed or Truck and RV. We also registered to vote and just like that we are official residents.
Having spent about two weeks in South Dakota I just want to say I am happy to call it home. Sort of. Let’s face it, when you are a full time RVer home is where you park it. Right now, we’re perched on a hill in the Little Missouri National Grassland at a boondocking spot called Scoria Pit, in North Dakota. (Not sure why it’s called that. The only place I’ve seen a pit around here is in the peach Mary ate yesterday.) But I will gladly call South Dakota my home state.
Clearly in two weeks we were unable to travel the entire state. That doesn’t really matter. After all, have you been all over the state you live in? Not likely. But I have seen enough of South Dakota to call it home. One day we were driving through the Black Hills in western South Dakota and I declared that if for some reason we stopped full timing I would love to live here.
We only traveled a fairly narrow corridor across the state primarily along Interstate Highway 90. But along the way I saw enough that I fell in love with the place.
Our address is Sioux Falls. This was our first stop on our trans Dakota journey. Once again, we camped at the Big Sioux State Recreation Area. It’s a lovely park nestled in the suburbs of the city. The park was there first but the suburbs have grown up around it. I should say we were joined on this journey by our Minnesota daughter and her family of six. The afternoon we got there we went to the Falls Park. This is one of the most beautiful city parks you will ever visit. Once there you will surely know why it is Sioux “Falls”.
The next day we headed out for the Badlands. Our first stop was Mitchel, SD. Mitchell is clearly a town built on agriculture. But is also home of the Corn Palace. It’s not that corn bought the naming rights for this place. Inside and out it is covered with corn. About a half a million people stop by and visit the corn palace each year. It was first built way back in 1882. There have been multiple buildings since then but they all have been covered with corn. I know it sounds corny. We had heard that it was not that great and we considered not stopping. But let me tell you the Corn Palace is definitely worth the stop. Inside and out are huge murals, all made up of locally grown corn of different varieties and colors and they are amazing! I would say it’s more of a venue than a palace but it is not to be missed. There is a large theater where concerts and other productions are held. The local high school plays all they’re home basketball games in the Palace. The murals are redone about every two years so in a sense it is always new. We were so glad we stopped. Awe shucks, you don’t want to miss it. It’s just a very short drive off of I-90 so next time don’t drive by be sure a pop in.
Our next stop was the Bad Lands of South Dakota. We exited the interstate highway at Wall, SD and headed south a few miles. Nomad’s Overlook is located in the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands and sits right along the boarder of Badlands National Park. The overlook is a popular boondocking location. As our youngest grandchild would say, “It is epic.” We were able to park right on the rim of the Badlands. Just feet from out front door was a drop off of several hundred feet. It was a beautiful place to camp! As we were sitting up a Big Horn Sheep Ram walked to within fifty feet of our campsite. Unfortunately, since we were setting up and his presence was such a surprise no one got a picture of the majestic animal.
We spent three days at Nomad’s Overlook. While there we visited The Badlands National Park. The entrance to the park was about a mile from the turnoff to where we were camping. The landscape of the Bad Lands is very rugged. It is easy to see why the Native Americans and early settlers moving west called this place “bad lands.” I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it would be to cross this place on foot or even horseback. But they are beautiful. We saw several Big Horn Sheep, mostly ewes and lambs, we also saw Buffalo and many Prairie Dogs.
We visited Wall Drug while camping at the overlook. This is a must do. Crossing South Dakota on I-90 you see dozens of signs hawking Wall Drugs. They promote their coffee for a nickel and free water. They have been around for over eighty years and have really honed their craft. We had a good breakfast in their café and walked around their many shops and displays. We also took advantage of the free ice water and five cent coffee.
Next stop was Rapid City. We spent ten days in Rapid City, the kids left on the seventh day. After boondocking a few days, we stayed at the Shadow of Rushmore RV Resort. Here we had full hookups, a nice large cement pad on which to park, a pool and even miniature golf. This proved to be a good home base for us while in the Black Hills. From here we had our Black Hills Base Camp from which we launched our adventures.
First, I should say the Rapid City area is a lot like Pigeon Forge. It has all sorts of things to do. Things like Reptile Gardens, a full-scale model of Independence Hall, the Hall of the Presidents which has wax figures of all the presidents, Bear Country, roller coasters, hover craft, and on and on I could go. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, it’s just not my thing. When I was a teenager, we came to Rapid City during a family vacation and we actually visited the Reptile Gardens. I remember it fondly 47 years later. I remember a large pit filled with snakes and a man getting down in there with them walking through picking them up and telling you about them. In the Alligator display there was a guy wrestling Alligators and telling you about them all the while. So, I wanted my grandkids to enjoy this spectacle as I had. But of course, they don’t do that anymore. They don’t want to harm the animals. The only ones I saw 47 years ago who were in danger was the guy wrestling the gators and the man in the snake pit. They will let you watch them feed the gators, but if they’re not feeding them the guy who used to wrestle them who wants to see that? But the blend of all these opportunities with the natural wonder makes this a great place to have a family vacation. So on to the important stuff.
I suppose the biggest attraction in the area is Mt. Rushmore National Monument. It certainly is a majestic sight and amazing feat. It’s one of those sights that stirs your emotions and raises your pride in our Country. About eleven miles away is the Crazy Horse Monument. This is the largest mountain carving in the world. It was begun in 1948 by Korczak Ziolkowski and the work continues today under the leadership of his family. This is a private enterprise so I’m sure money is always a factor. The carving when completed will feature Chief Crazy Horse riding his horse and pointing into the future. It is already an amazing carving but I would guess it’s only a quarter of the way to completion. While there we got to see a Native American Dance demonstration. It was very impressive and even more informative. We were all glad we had made this stop.
My sister had encouraged us to go to Devil’s Tower, Wyoming. So, we took a day and headed over there. We had such a good time there and were so glad we had gone. It is an amazing place. Shear rock climbing up out of the prairie so large and so tall it can be seen for miles. The plan for the day was to have a picnic lunch with sandwiches cooked over the fire. We took the propane fire pit and pie irons and had quite the feast. Upon arriving at the picnic area and laying claim to our spot, I spied a large snake just a few feet away. Turns out it was a five to six-foot bull snake. The snake proceeded to climb a nearby tree. (Think about that the next time you are strolling through the woods!) The ranger said the snake was looking for bird nests to rob. We loved out time at Devil’s Tower. Mary and I were so impressed we came home and watched Close Encounters of The Third Kind.
We also spent a day at Custer State Park and driving the Needles Highway. We took the scenic loop around Custer and saw much of the wildlife the park is famous for. Our first encounter was a large herd of Buffalo. We turned off the main loop to see a Prairie Dog town and along the way we saw dozens of Big Horn Sheep. It must have been a good year because we saw lots of lambs. We also saw a herd of “wild” Burros. You could actually pet them so they weren’t really all that wild. Sylvan Lake was a highlight of the park. It is a beautiful lake in a more beautiful setting surrounded by enormous rocks. For me the real highlight of the day was the Needles Highway. It is a hair-raising ride. The road is very narrow and extremely curvy. There are often sheer drop offs just inches from the road. Four tunnels near the end of the drive were so narrow we had to fold in the truck mirrors to fit through. But it is some of the most spectacular scenery you will ever experience.
Another fantastic drive is the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. This fourteen-mile drive runs through a canyon cut out by the Spearfish River. This drive features dramatic sheer cliffs towering hundreds of feet high on both sides of the road. There are four waterfalls to enjoy along the way three of which are just a very short walk from the road or can be seen from the road. This is a drive you don’t want to miss.
We just scratched the surface during our ten days in the Black Hills. But we had a blast. We are sure to return to see and do some of the things we missed this time and do some things again. Now I have many more reasons for claiming South Dakota as my resident state.
2 thoughts on “SOUTH DAKOTA”
You are a good advertisement for visiting SD! Our son came thru there last year on his way from Seattle to NY and said it was beautiful 🤗
Great post! I enjoyed reading about your state.