South Dakota - Landmarks and Points of Interest
The majestic 60-foot faces of four U.S. presidents gaze out over South Dakota’s Black Hills. Often referred to as the "Shrine to Democracy," Mount Rushmore is recognized worldwide. From the Grandview terrace, visitors get a spectacular view of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. The impressive Lincoln Borglum Museum contains interactive interpretive exhibits, and an award-winning audio tour incorporating music, narration, interviews, historic recordings and sound effects that will give information regarding a variety of topics—from Gutzon Borglum to the presidents, from the natural resources to the cultures that have impacted the Black Hills.
Badlands National Park
Millions of years of wind and water erosion have carved an eerie sight from the vast prairies of western South Dakota. Steep precipices, saw wedged spires and colored grassy-topped buttes form a strange and beautiful landscape that tells the story of earth’s history. When they first encountered these unusual formations, the Lakota aptly called them "Mako Sica," or "bad land." The Badlands is 244,000 acres of pink and brown bands of sandstone. Sedimentary layers laid down by volcanic ash and long-expired rivers stain the steep cliffs and canyon walls. The skeletons of ancient camels, three-toed horses, saber-toothed cats and giant rhinoceros-like creatures are among the many fossilized species found here. Living creatures roam the Badlands as well. Buffalo, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, coyotes and prairie dogs can be seen by visitors to the park all year-round.
Black Hills Caves
Of all the caves in the United States, none contains the vast variety of rare formations found in Black Hills caves. Eight amazing caves are open to public viewing in the Black Hills. Two of these caves are part of the National Park Service: Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park. Jewel Cave National Monument is the second-longest cave in the world. More than 135 miles of passages have been surveyed. Calcite crystals that glitter when illuminated give the cave its name. The cave's most common crystals are dogtooth and nail head spar. The cave is located about 13 miles west of Custer. With more than 110 miles of mapped passages, Wind Cave National Park is the fourth-longest cave in the world. It contains the world's largest display of a rare formation called "box work." Above ground, the park comprises 28,000 acres of mixed-grass prairie and ponderosa pine forest that is home to bison, elk, prairie dogs and other wildlife.
Crazy Horse Memorial
In 1939, Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear invited sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to carve an Indian memorial in the Black Hills. Though Korczak died in 1982, the sculptor’s wife and family continue the non-profit project still today. Crazy Horse Memorial is the largest sculptural undertaking ever. Upon completion, it will tower 563 feet high and 641 feet long. Visitors can watch history in the making, as drilling and blasting continue on the rest of the sculpture. Crazy Horse Memorial is open year-round. Its large orientation center allows visitors to view the sculpture, tour the Indian Museum of North American and to see the sculptor’s studio-home and workshop. The memorial also offers a nightly laser light show, titled "Legends in Light," which dramatized the story of the Native Americans’ rich heritage, culture and contributions to society.
Custer State Park
Custer State Park covers 71,000 acres, making it one of the largest state parks in the nation. From its northern sector, where the 7,242-foot-high Harney Peak stands, to the forest, meadows and prairies of its southeast corner, Custer State Park offers something for everyone. An abundance of wildlife frequent the park. The most popular attraction year-round is one of the largest publicly owned buffalo herds in the country. Other wildlife inhabiting the park include elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, mule and whitetail deer, coyotes and wild turkeys. Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing and fishing are all popular activities in the park.
South Dakota’s National Grasslands
Three designated grassland areas preserve South Dakota’s prairie. Buffalo Gap National Grassland encompasses more than 550,000 acres in the southwestern part of South Dakota.