August 8, 2012

South Dakota – “Mount Rushmore State”


South Dakota Map

Just the Facts…


bird – Ring-Necked Pheasant
flower – Pasque flower
tree – White Spruce
capital – Pierre
union – 40th state on November 2, 1889
population – about 750,000




The Basics 

South Dakota is located in the Midwest.  The Missouri River runs right down the middle, separating the state into “East River” and “West River.”  In the eastern half of South Dakota (East River), the land is relatively flat prairie and there are many farms that grow a variety of crops.  Most of the state’s population is in East River.  In the western half of South Dakota (West River), the land gets less rain and cattle ranching is big.  In addition, West River is home to the Black Hills.

If you read our summary of North Dakota yesterday, you probably know that South Dakota could be the 39th State, rather than the 40th State – who really knows?


Its Claim to Fame

Mount Rushmore!  Mount Rushmore National Memorial is in the Black Hills, a small mountain range at the border of South Dakota and Wyoming.  The faces of four famous American Presidents are carved into the face of the mountain – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.  Each head is huge, about 60 feet tall.  South Dakota’s historian came up with the idea in the 1920s to try to increase tourism in the state.  Mount Rushmore was chosen as the site because it had a large carving area, hard granite, and it faces southeast so the sun would shine on the Presidents almost all day.  It took almost 15 years to carve all four Presidents – the memorial was completed in 1941 and the National Park Service has been taking care of it ever since.

South Dakota has been home to many battles between Native Americans and the United States over the years.  Originally, the United States granted the Lakota tribe all the land west of the Missouri River.  General Custer of the US Army led expeditions into this land and found gold in the Black Hills.  After that, it was hard to stop American settlers from coming into the area.  Even today, the Lakota tribe wants America to give the Black Hills back to them.  They even brought a case before the US Supreme Court asking for that very thing.


What Makes it Tick

Many credit card companies are based in South Dakota – the largest being Citibank.  Your parents probably have a credit card – if so, ask to look at the statement sometime.  It is from South Dakota?  Do you have to send the payments to South Dakota?

For many years, South Dakota was a big part of America’s nuclear weapons program.  During the Cold War, 150 Minutemen missile launch sites and 15 missile control facilities were built underground in western South Dakota.  And, it was top secret.  For nearly 50 years, people would drive right by a nuclear weapon and not even know it!  Now, a missile control facility and missile launch site are open to the public, as part of the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.


If You Visited

Most people don’t visit South Dakota without seeing some part of the Black Hills – whether it be Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, the Badlands, Deadwood or Wind Cave.  The Badlands National Park has many interesting rock formations.  The wind has eroded the rocks over the years, eventually creating the unique landscape of the Badlands.  In addition, the Badlands are home to many different animal species, including big horn sheep and bison.    There is also evidence of ancient animals that are now extinct – many fossils of unusual animals have been found in the Badlands.

You might also visit the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills.  Crazy Horse is a memorial to the Native Americans who used to call this land home.  Work has been going on for 55 years and it is not finished yet!  When it is completed, it will be the largest mountain sculpture in the world.

Or, you might visit the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.  The outside of the Palace is decorated with murals every summer.  And, the murals are made out of corn kernels and other grains!  There have actually been three Corn Palace buildings over the years – the current one was built in 1921.  The very first corn palace was built to showcase all the different foods grown in the fertile soil of South Dakota.  Now, it is a tribute to the area’s heritage with an annual festival in August.


Want to Know More? 

Check our South Dakota state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Do you live in South Dakota?  Or, maybe you have visited South Dakota?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite place in South Dakota?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of South Dakota to share? Email them to: Or, post them to our Facebook page:

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about South Dakota.  Visit these websites to learn more: