One of the most heralded natural phenomenon of South Dakota, the Black Hills are a small range of mountains spanning the western part of the state. Home to the highest mountains east of the Rockies, the range’s name is derived from its thick covering of pine and spruce trees, which gives it a dark appearance from a distance. South Dakota’s Black Hills were originally formed hundreds of millions of years ago by volcanic activity. The biosystems of the range are distinguished by fossilized rock types, diverse wildlife, and an abundance of flora and fauna. Adventurous hikers may discover natural bridges, unexplored caves, and other geographical marvels. The Black Hills area also offers plenty of delicious dining options, from casual spots like the Four Aces in Deadwood to finer establishments like The Gas Light, near Mount Rushmore. Abundant shopping is available as well, from the famous Wall Drug to small, specialty antique stores.
Originally inhabited by a Native American population, the thick forests of the Black Hills of South Dakota were a primary source of wood for construction and fuel. The area was overrun with gold miners after the precious metal was discovered there by General George Custer’s expedition in 1874. The ensuing gold rush drove out the native population and led to the widespread settlement of whites in the years following. Today, the Black Hills are still actively mined for gold, coal, silver, uranium, and other specialty minerals.
Cities & Economy
The area encompassing the Black Hills is home to more than 250,000 permanent residents. The major modern-day city is Rapid City; its thriving metropolitan area makes it the second-largest city in the state of South Dakota. Other notable cities include Deadwood (distinguished by its authentic “Wild West” setting), the historic Custer (home to the Black Hills National Forest), Spearfish, Newcastle, Hill City, and Keystone, among others. Primary sources of income for South Daktoa’s Black Hills area include tourism, mining, lumber harvesting, sheep and cattle ranching, and modest manufacturing of artillery, electronics, gold jewelry, and other select goods.
A major tourist destination and source of economy for the state of South Dakota, the Black Hills are home to such national attractions as Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Wind Cave National Park, making it a site rich in history and heritage. Additional recreational landmarks include the George S. Mickelson Trail, Bear Butte State Park, and the towering Harney’s Peak. Each August, the Black Hills hosts the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which draws in more than 550,000 bikers and boosts the economy of surrounding areas.