Planning Your Visit
With the exception of the South Unit (Stronghold District) of Badlands National Park, the Pine Ridge Reservation is on privately owned land. It is good to plan ahead for a visit to the reservation. The area is vast and the towns are small.
A visit to Pine Ridge is more a cultural and historical visit than it is sightseeing. Part of the experience of the reservation is to meet the people there. Some restaurants are in people’s homes, and bed-and-breakfasts are in backyards. The powwows are community ceremonies. Many accommodations can set up a personal tour of the reservation, and arrange for horseback-riding trips, gallery tours, and other community events.
There are sights to see without making arrangements through lodgings, but planning ahead is highly recommended. Many of the galleries on the reservation are run by the artists themselves, and they aren’t always available on-site. The reservation is large and a long drive should end up with more than an empty studio. Call before you leave. And once you get started? Tune your radio to KILI, 90.1 FM, and enjoy listening to the best in community-oriented radio broadcasting.
Access to the Pine Ridge Reservation is primarily by car. It is possible, however, to arrange a tour with Affordable Adventures (409 N. Ellsworth, Box Elder, 605/342-7691, www.affordableadventuresbh.com, $150), a small-group tour company that provides narrated tours on small vans through the Pine Ridge Reservation. The tours start in Rapid City, travel to the town of Scenic, and then head south to the Reservation on BIA Highway 27.
The tour varies, depending on the weather, and may include stops at Sheep Mountain Table, White River Visitor Center, Oglala College, the Red Cloud Heritage Center, and Red Shirt Table. Tours will sometimes include a step-on narration by native guides. Lunch is in Manderson or Kyle.
© Laural A. Bidwell from Moon Mount Rushmore & the Black Hills, 1st Edition