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5 Interesting Facts About South Dakota

South Dakota is known for being the home of Mount Rushmore. It has plains and mountains and breathtaking scenic beauty. It is a major producer of corn and potatoes. There is a large bison population that many tourists come to see. While it is now known as the Mount Rushmore State, it was once known as the Sunshine State. 

Jewel Cave

Jewel Cave is the third longest cave in the world and is located at Jewel Cave National Monument near Custer, South Dakota. It was discovered in 1900 by Frank and Albert Michaud. They enlarged the entrance so they could enter and named it Jewel Cave due to the calcite crystals. They unsuccessfully tried to capitalize on it but after Theodore Roosevelt heard of it he made it the Jewel Cave National Monument in 1908. The National Park Service began offering tours in 1939. In 1959, less than 2 miles had been explored. That same year Herb and Jan Conn began to explore the cave and within a couple of years had mapped 15 miles of the cave. By 1979, they had discovered more than 64 miles of passages. It now has more than 198 miles of mapped passageways. The Park Service eventually added walkways and stairs for tours. Jewel Cave is a breathing cave, which means air exits and enters the cave in atmospheric pressure. It is quite the sight to see. 

Chief Crazy Horse

Chief Crazy Horse was a war leader for the Oglala Lakota and is most known for the Battle of Little Bighorn. He surrendered and was killed by military at Camo Robinson in Nebraska in 1877. Crazy Horse is probably one of the most well-known Native Americans to have lived. In the Black Hills of South Dakota, a monument to Chief Crazy Horse has been underway for over 70 years. In 1948, Lakota elders chose Korczak Ziolkowski to carve the monument out of Thunderhead Mountain. It will feature Crazy Horse on a horse. The size of it will dwarf nearby Mount Rushmore. When finished the carving will be 641 feet long and 563 feet high. So far, only the head has been completed which is 87 feet high, for comparison each head at Mount Rushmore is 60 feet high. Korczak spent the rest of his life working on it until he passed in 1982. His children have since continued his work. You can visit and see the work being done and check out the museum.  

Deadwood

Deadwood, South Dakota was town that was a major player during the Black Hills Goldrush. Deadwood was illegally founded in the 1870s on land that belonged to the Lakota people. After the discovery of gold in the Black Hills in 1874 people began to flock there. By 1876, around 25,000 people had settled there. Deadwood quickly gained a reputation for being a lawless place. The town was filled with prostitutes, gamblers and miners. Murders were very common and there was little justice for those who were killed. It is where famed gunman Wild Bill Hickock was gunned down by Jack McCall, who was tried twice for the crime before he was hanged. Other notable residents include Calamity Jane, Charlie Utter, Mollie Johnson and Al Swearengen. Eventually, people moved on and today there is only a population of a little over 1,000. The entire town has been made a National Historic Landmark. In 2004, HBO created a TV show based on some of the famed residents during the goldrush and on the lawlessness on the era. It ran for 3 seasons and a TV movie that debuted in 2019. 

Badlands

The Badlands of South Dakota were once a shallow sea around 75 million years ago. Then they became a subtropical forest and eventually the grasslands that we know today. Due to this, the Badlands have an abundance of fossils. The fossils of the Badlands are found in two major formations, the Chadron and the Brule. The Chadron is made up of sedimentary rock deposits from between 37 and 34 million years ago. During this time the climate was warmer and fossils of crocodiles, brontotherids and horses have been found. The Brule is made up of sedimentary rock that formed between 34 and 29 million years ago. The climate was cooler and fossils have been found of horses, camels, pigs, rabbits and rhinoceroses. The Brule has one of the largest and complete assemblages of fossil mammals in the world. The largest and most complete T-Rex ever found was discovered near the Badlands in 1990 near Faith, South Dakota. Sue the T-Rex is 42 feet long and 12 feet high. She can be found at the Field Museum in Chicago. 

Corn Palace

The World’s Only Corn Palace is in Mitchell, South Dakota and gets around 500,000 visitors each year. It was first constructed in 1892 to showcase the local agriculture and attract settlers. It was a relatively common thing to do at the time. It was rebuilt in 1905 and again in 1921. In 1937, Russian style onion domes and Moorish minarets were added that give it the distinct look it has today. It may be called the Corn Palace but it is mostly made of concrete. However, the outside is decorated with murals made up of local grains and corn. The murals are redesigned each year by local artists. The Corn Palace is a venue used for various events like concerts. Johnny Cash, the Beach Boys, Pat Benatar, Weird Al and many others have played there.