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The Plains and Black Hills of South Dakota


The second largest city in South Dakota, Rapid City also known as the gateway to the Black Hills, is on the eastern edge of the Black Hills. Originally known as Hay Camp, the discovery of gold in 1874, helped the city grow quickly. The spring fed Rapid Creek that flows through the city helped with the new name. It is split up the middle by one of the mountain ranges, called the Dakota Hogback. On the edge of the plains and hills, the city grew as it sold supplies to miners. The need for these items and supplies brought in the necessary merchants. Also it brought in the railroad in the late 1880s. After the boom and subsequent bust, it first became a regional trade center, then tourist destination. In 1927, the famous sculptor, Gutzon Borglum started work on Mount Rushmore. After his death in 1941, his son Lincoln continued with the faces. After the U.S. entered the war, work was halted and eventually called completed.

During that time, an army air base, opened and became known as the Ellsworth Air Force Base. With the influx of military and civilian personnel, the city doubled in size. Nike air defense missile silos appeared in the 50s, and in the 60s, Titan missiles were installed. For over a hundred miles around the city, 150 Minuteman missile silos and 15 launch centers occupied the land; but by the early 90s, all were deactivated. Meanwhile the city envisioned itself as a retail and wholesale center and continued to grow. Unfortunately, on June 9, 1972, the creek overflowed killing over 250 people and destroying property in excess of $100 million. 

Rebuilding, Rapid City has become a trade and transportation center. It has vast lumber stands, expansive ranches, and very productive mining (feldspar, mica, uranium, gold, silver, mice and bentonite). It also produces gold and silver jewelry, gun stocks, small arms munitions, wood products, sand, gravel and limestone.


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Tours in Rapid City

Since tourism became an important part of the economy, many cultural improvements were coming to the city. Museums, art galleries, playhouses, orchestras and sculptures. Between 1997 and 2007, life-sized statues of the past presidents were placed in the downtown area street corners; called the "Parade of Presidents". Many other sculptures adorn the city's streets. Sometimes referred to as "the Star of the West", many tourists come to see the presidents' faces on Mount Rushmore and the area where the film "Dances with Wolves" was made. Almost 10 per cent of the area's residents are native Americans that contribute unique arts and crafts to the local shops. 

Rapid City is not only the gateway to the Black Hills, but also to many other amazing sites; the Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore, the Wind Cave National Park, Sioux and pioneer museums.  Since the city leads into the Black Hills, it is the staging area for many exciting events. One is in nearby Sturgis, that holds a huge motorcycle rally each year and is known nationally. Another is the famous city of the old west, Deadwood. Rapid City is the main source for supplying the bikers and others coming to the rally each August, with campsites, motel and hotel rooms. Tourists come the year round for various events, as well as local caves, water parks, private museums, wildlife parks and other smaller attractions. It can also handle large conventions.


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Things to do in Rapid City South Dakota

Because of the flood in 1972, homes and businesses are no longer built upon the flood plain. Instead there are many sports arenas, arboretums, golf courses and parks.  The city does have many sports venues, but none in the major leagues, yet all are very exciting spectacles to watch.

There is a multitude of things to do in and around the city. An art alley, an exhibit of the now extinct Berlin Wall, the famous dinosaur park, museums, gardens, various parks, the Rushmore maze, and the list goes on. Since the area was once a dinosaur stomping ground, there are many fossils, and other reminders of that past age.  Rapid City boasts its fair share of zoos, horseback riding, theme parks, live theater, a great and distinctive night life, theaters, performing arts theaters, movie houses, museums, and last but not least the magnitude of its landmark sites.  There are nearby casinos for the gamblers, all kinds of recreation, a plethora of places to eat or wet your appetite, and many places open 24 hours a day. The only thing lacking for your amusement is the time to relax and just enjoy the magnificent scenery.

A very unique opportunity awaits the more adventurous among you when you travel to Bear Country USA. A 250 acre natural habitat for bears, reindeer, buffalo, elk and cougar. You will travel around in your auto, so don't be surprised to have one of the magnificent creatures come up and greet you and your surprised family. The Black Hills are full of wonderful surprises. The caverns, discovered in the late 1800s, are beautiful examples of stalactites and stalagmites in an underground world that must be visited. The ancient granite peaks of the Black Hills, named by the Lakota Sioux, is a vast expanse of evergreens spanning over a million acres. Here you will enjoy nature to the fullest with all kinds of animals, birds and trails.