RAPID CITY, S.D. (2/4/09) – Hot Springs' sandstone structures, Wild Bill Hickok's grave in Deadwood and Rapid City's colorful Black Hills Powwow all offer visitors first-hand testimony about the history and culture of the West.
And it is this emphasis on historic preservation and cultural diversity that attracts heritage travelers from around the world to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Millions visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial, but those who seek more can find it in Hot Springs, Deadwood, Custer, Sturgis, Rapid City or Spearfish.
HOT SPRINGS -- The National Trust for Historic Preservation named this Southern Hills city one of its "Dozen Destinations of Distinction" nationwide for 2009. Many of Hot Springs' historic downtown buildings are made from the same pink sandstone quarried from nearby hillsides.
Hot Springs, established in 1879 along the warm-flowing waters of Fall River, quickly became a spa and health resort. These days, you can still soak in the warm waters at Evans Plunge or one of the smaller spas in Hot Springs.
In addition, The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs offers visitors a chance to watch over the shoulders of paleontologists as they unearth the ancient bones of these mighty Ice Age beasts. To date, the remains of more than 55 mammoths have been recovered.
DEADWOOD – True West magazine named Deadwood to its 2009 Top Ten True Western Towns, honoring the city for its work to preserve its history and maintain an authentic Western experience for visitors.
Deadwood's most famous resident, Wild Bill Hickok, is buried in MountMoriahCemetery. In recent years the cemetery, along with much of Deadwood's historic 1890s architecture, has been elaborately restored – thanks to revenue from Deadwood's 20-year-old casino industry.
In addition, Deadwood's story is told through photographic interpretive signs throughout downtown, and in the displays at the AdamsMuseum and the Days of '76 Museum.
CUSTER – Named for Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, it is the oldest city in the Black Hills. It was established in 1875, a year after the Custer Expedition discovered gold in nearby French Creek.
Today's Custer is a mix of history and adventure. The 1881 CourthouseMuseum lets visitors explore Black Hills history back to Custer's 1874 expedition. The Mickelson Trail, a 100-mile Black Hills biking and hiking path, snakes through downtown Custer. Another bike trail leads to CusterState Park east of town. The park's State Game Lodge served as President Calvin Coolidge's Western White House in 1927.
Custer visitors can also see history in the making at the Crazy Horse Memorial, a giant mountain carving north of the city. Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski began the carving in 1948, and his family continues the work today.
STURGIS – Known more for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which draws half a million bikers each August, Sturgis is nonetheless an old city with a rich history. FortMeade, once an important frontier outpost, is near Sturgis. The old cavalry stables, barracks, officers' living quarters and the fort cemetery have been well-maintained over the years. The OldFortMeadeMuseum preserves the uniforms, weapons and other artifacts of Army life in the 1870s.
Just outside Sturgis is Bear Butte, the starkly beautiful mountain that is a sacred site for the Northern Cheyenne, the Lakota and other Northern Plains tribes.
RAPIDCITY – The largest city in the Black Hills, Rapid City began as a hay camp and supply depot for the 1870s gold miners. The city's mercantile past is reflected in the diverse architecture of the Downtown Historic District.
Each fall Rapid City's RushmorePlazaCivicCenter comes to colorful life during the annual Black Hills Powwow, a pageant that brings Native American dancers from across North America. In addition, the JourneyMuseum offers visitors a walk through the history of the Black Hills. The Museum of Geology, on the campus of South DakotaSchool of Mines & Technology, has an extensive exhibit of rare dinosaur fossils and minerals from around the world.
SPEARFISH – On the northern edge of the Black Hills, Spearfish is home to Black HillsStateUniversity, western South Dakota's center for visual and performing arts. Spearfish's HighPlainsWesternHeritageCenter features Western art, artifacts and memorabilia from the region's forestry, mining, ranching and rodeo past.
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