Landmarks and Legends
South Dakota's stunning landscapes played a starring role in the history of the Great Sioux Nation. They've also inspired many a colorful tale. Don't miss these legendary spots as you travel across the state.
- Black Hills - The Lakota call them "he sapa" or "black mountains." And rightly so. The lush mountains of western South Dakota are so thick with pines that they look black from a distance. Much lore surrounds the Black Hills, including a belief that the legendary Thunder Bird visited Harney Peak. A hike to the top of this 7,242-foot peak reveals a spectacular 60-mile view.
- Sica Hollow - Glowing tree stumps, strange moaning sounds, and a stream that sometimes runs red. These unusual occurrences in Sica Hollow led the Indians to call the hollow "sica," meaning "bad." Today, the forested ravine is a state park with hiking and horse trails, picnicking, and camping. It's located 15 miles northwest of Sisseton.
- Sica Hollow State Park - The focus of several American Indian legends, Sica Hollow teems with wildflowers in the summer and blazes with brilliant color in the fall. Explore the park via hiking and horse trails. Located 15 miles northwest of Sisseton.
- Badlands - This striking landscape of buttes and spires rises abruptly out of the South Dakota prairie. When they first encountered these unusual formations, the Lakota aptly called them "mako sica," meaning "bad land." Badlands National Park covers 244,000 acres and was once the home of three-toed horses, giant pigs, and titanotheres! Approximately 120,000 acres of the Badlands lie on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Badlands National Park is located off I-90 in southwestern South Dakota.
- Crazy Horse Memorial - A mammoth mountain carving of Crazy Horse, a legendary Lakota leader, is now emerging as the fifth granite face in the Black Hills. When completed, it will stand 563 feet high and 641 feet long. Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski (1908-1982) began the project in 1949 at the request of several Lakota chiefs. The chiefs chose Crazy Horse because he symbolized the spirit of his people. Today, Korczak's family continues the dream. Travelers can view the drilling and blasting on the mountain, and visit the on-site Indian Museum of North America. The memorial is located 17 miles southwest of Mount Rushmore.
- Bear Butte - "Mato paha," or "Bear Butte," holds great spiritual significance for several Plains Indian tribes. The volcanic laccoloith is still used today for religious ceremonies and vision quests. Travelers can hike portions of this sacred mountain but should stop at the Visitor Center for an orientation. Bear Butte State Park is located six miles northeast of Sturgis.
Take a look at our 20 Reasons Why We're the Best Route in the West section for more information, including specific maps.
- Tekakwitha Fine Arts Center, Sisseton - The Tekakwitha Fine Arts Center features 10 galleries of regional American Indian art. Artists include Paul War Cloud and Jackie Bird. Browse through an on-site gift shop, where handmade American Indian arts and crafts are sold. Open daily, June 1 - Sept. 15. Closed Mondays and weekend mornings remainder of the year.
- Dakota Sioux Casino, Watertown - Bet on fun at the Dakota Sioux Casino. Games include slots, poker, and blackjack. Visit the restaurant and lounge, and enjoy live entertainment Monday - Saturday. Located six miles north of Watertown. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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