The tapestry of American history unfolds while travelling through this rolling and often contrasting state. You cannot help being inspired by the trek made by South Dakota's first pioneers Lewis and Clark and awed by the state's natural beauty.
Sioux Falls and the East: The City of Sioux Falls is the largest in the state. The main street of this picture-perfect city is lined with trendy boutiques, art stores and independent merchants. The falls that gave the city its name were partially modified to power the town's mill. Today, the falls are the central feature of a lovely park, featuring trails, picnic areas and much more.
Driving farther north, we took our first real steps into the past with a visit to De Smet and the home of Laura Ingalls-Wilder, author of the "Little House on the Prairie" books. The homestead is a hands-on experience with wagon rides and a barn where you can learn to make 'corn dolls' and other local arts and crafts.
Across The Badlands: On this western trek there are attractions that cater to many tastes. The town of Murdo's Pioneer Auto Show has several hundred classic cars and motorcycles dating from the early 1900s to the Muscle-car era.
Wall Drug is the world-famous store that features a unique collection of Western art. Fame came its way during the Depression when it offered free ice water to travellers. It is now a block-long emporium of galleries, stores and attractions.
I can't imagine what the first travellers must have thought when they came upon The Badlands. Now a National Park, the area was formed through millions of years of erosion and wind, which stripped this area down to a barren, brown landscape of crevasses and canyons.
Into the Hills: Older than the Rockies themselves, the Black Hills of South Dakota get their name from the local Natives who consider the range sacred land. Recognised as an outdoorsman's paradise, its trails, hunting lodges and fishing streams are just the surface of this ancient land. Deep below are some of the largest cave systems in the world.
Welcome to the Wild West: Further along is the town of Deadwood. As soon as we arrived we were thrust back in time by a high-noon showdown: a re-enactment of the capture of Jack McCall, the man who killed Wild Bill Hickock.
The town's refurbished buildings, now mostly casinos and hotels, still retain their original character. It was as if at any moment a gunfight or brawl could break out or an old fella with his donkey could be walking down from the hills shouting, "There's gold in them thare hills!"
Shrine of Democracy and the Dignity of a People: South Dakota's prime tourist destination was the last item on a list that had included a whirlwind tour of this lovely travel destination, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Impressive to say the least, but just miles away, I was treated to a site that has made me promise myself to return to this surprising state. The Crazy Horse Memorial is a new wonder of the world. When completed, the Memorial will be a towering three-dimensional representation of Crazy Horse, with a written tablet stating, "My lands are where my dead lie buried". To put some perspective to the scope of the monument, Crazy Horse's face and head alone are larger than the entire carving of Mount Rushmore!
The Sublime State: South Dakota is not only the friendliest state in the union, but a relatively inexpensive destination. In addition, its great tourist infrastructure and outstanding attractions make it a fabulous choice for any vacationer.
David J. Cox works and lives in Montreal. He is a regular contributor to Canadian World Traveller magazine and a writer / translator when not fortunate enough to be travelling!
Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/