South Dakota State Parks

One Of The South Dakota State Parks Is On A Site Sacred To Native Americans

As you would expect in this sparsely populated state, the State Parks in South Dakota are located on some spectacular land which is full of history, often associated with Native American tribes who lived in the region for many hundreds of years.

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Indeed Bear Butte State Park is sited on a spot of deeply religious importance to the Plains Indians.

This park is on the place where their God is supposed to have given a Cheyenne prophet called Sweet Medicine, all the knowledge that is the basis for their way of life.

Mount Rushmore In South Dakota

South Dakota is situated in the northern part of America, virtually in the center of the country. The state gets its name from the Dakota Sioux tribe who lived in the region.

Only four other states in America have a smaller population, which at less than a million, means there are only around 11 people per square mile in this beautiful Midwestern state.

Geographically, South Dakota is divided by the Missouri River which runs roughly from north to south through the state. The two halves are known locally as "east river" and "west river."

The eastern part is where the majority of the population live and the fertile soil there means that agriculture is the main way of life. To the west, ranching and tourism is predominant.

Perhaps the most famous part of South Dakota is the low range of mountains known as the "Black Hills." Located in the southwestern portion of the state, the peaks of this range top out at between 2,000 and 4,000 feet.

However, the highest point in South Dakota is found here and that is Harney Peak at 7,242 feet above sea level.

Harney Peak In The Black Hills Is The Highest Point In South Dakota

The Black Hills are sacred to the Sioux tribe of Native Americans. However, the discovery of gold here in 1874 led to conflict between Indians and the miners and explorers supported by the U.S. Army.

The military expedition that discovered the gold was led by the famous Colonel George A.Custer who was later to be killed at the Little Big Horn.

His involvement in South Dakota is remembered in the naming of the first of the South Dakota State Parks which was created in 1912. This is the 71,000 acre Custer State Park which is also a wildlife reserve.

There are only nine areas in South Dakota designated as state parks however, there are forty four recreation areas, a number of nature areas and trails and an historic prairie.

The Beautiful Sylvan Lake, One Of The Highlights At Custer State Park

One of America`s most famous tourist attractions is also found in the Black Hills at Mount Rushmore. Here the faces of four U.S. Presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln have been carved into the rocky mountainside.

Another interesting region in South Dakota is the famous Badlands. Also located in the southwestern portion of the state the Badlands National Park covers 242,756 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires together with a mixed grass prairie.

Not only is it a geographically stunning area but it is extremely important historically. A huge number of fossils have been unearthed here over the years. Of the 84 distinct fossilised species ever discovered in America, 77 of them have been found in the South Dakota Badlands.

Sundown At An Area Known As "The Wall" In The Badlands, South Dakota

It is also an historically important region to the Native American tribes. For over 11,000 years it has been their hunting grounds and they viewed it as their land.

Toward the end of the 19th century the U.S. government stripped much of this land from the Indians and forced them to live on reservations.

In the winter of 1890 thousands of disgruntled Native Americans, including many Oglala Sioux, took part in one of the last known Ghost Dances in what is now the southern part of the Badlands National Park.

Following the Ghost Dance, the U.S. Army and Indians clashed at a place some 45 miles south of the Badlands. The Massacre at Wounded Knee went into American folklore and left nearly 300 Indians and 30 soldiers dead.

The South Dakota State Parks together with the Badlands, the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore, make South Dakota a magnet for tourists looking for incredible scenery and interesting history.

The Memorial At The Mass Grave Of Native Americans At The Wounded Knee Battle Site

Here is a list of South Dakota State Parks

  • (6)Palisades State Park
  • (7)Roy Lake State Park
  • (8)Sica Hollow State Park
  • (9)Union Grove State Park

Here Are The Locations Of All The South Dakota State Parks