The Northern Hills
Life seems more adventurous, wilder, and flashier in the Northern Hills. From the tattoos, leather, and roaring bikes of the Sturgis Rally in August, to the year-round ringing bells and flashing casino lights in Deadwood, the high-energy, late-night crowd has a home here.
Gambling keeps the energy level high and the hours long; its legalization in 1989 breathed new life into an area that was starting to fall into disrepair. The funds generated from the gambling industry allowed the area to revitalize its historic buildings.
The entire town of Deadwood is now a registered National Historic Landmark and it embraces its Wild West past with daily gunfights and historic re-enactments. Check out the local museums (and cemetery!) for information about some of South Dakota’s most famous and infamous characters who at one time called Deadwood home.
Sister mining community, Lead (pronounced Leed), just three miles down the road from Deadwood, was once home to the largest and deepest gold mine in North America. Closed in 2002, the mine is being reborn as the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory. A mining museum and guided tour of the grounds reminds visitors of what inspired people to trespass on Native American land, break the law, and risk their lives in the hope of finding great wealth.
Diversity is the watchword of the Northern Hills as adventure extends itself to the great outdoors. Harney Peak, the highest peak in the hills, is located in the Central Hills region, but there are several peaks in the Northern Hills that reach heights of 6,900 feet and above. Here you can explore some of the best rock climbing, hiking, and biking trails in the state.
Tired of trying your luck at the blackjack table? Head to Spearfish Canyon and try your hand at fly-fishing in Spearfish Creek instead. The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is a dramatic 22-mile route that cuts though steep canyon walls, drops more than 2,000 feet in elevation, and winds along Spearfish Creek to connect the historic mining community of Lead to the arts and historic ranch community of Spearfish.
© Laural A. Bidwell from Moon Mount Rushmore & the Black Hills, 1st Edition