Visiting the United States? There are 50 states in all.
South Dakota, a Midwestern state, is known for its national parks, windswept prairies and 19th-century frontier history. Named for the area’s native Lakota and Dakota Sioux Indian tribes — members of the Great Sioux Nation — South Dakota offers outdoor activities in a place that retains an Old West flavor.
Admire sculptures of U.S. presidents carved into a mountain, hike the trails of Badlands National Park and explore pioneer life in the town of De Smet, where Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of the Little House on the Prairie books) grew up.
South Dakota has a rich trove of fossils; this state is where paleontologists found one of the most complete T. Rex skeletons ever unearthed.
If you like water sports, the lakes of the Black Hills area and northeastern South Dakota are perfect for kayaking, fishing and boating.
Larger than life
No South Dakota site is more iconic than Mount Rushmore National Memorial, where the faces of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln are carved into the granite mountain. Located in South Dakota’s Black Hills region, Mount Rushmore was completed under the direction of father-and-son sculptors Gutzon and Lincoln Borglum from 1927 to 1941.
Where the buffalo roam
Badlands National Park, in southwestern South Dakota, has dramatic landscapes and abundant wildlife throughout its nearly 98,240 hectares. You’ll find free-roaming buffalo herds, as well as bighorn sheep, mule deer, bobcats, coyotes and foxes.
This region is also home to Custer State Park, which has buffaloes, white-tailed deer, mountain goats, wild burros, mountain lions, prairie dogs and other creatures. Visitors are warned to keep a respectful distance from animals.
A leader for Indian rights
Not far from Mount Rushmore is the Crazy Horse Memorial, a tribute to the Oglala Dakota warrior who led his people to victory against U.S. Army forces in 1876. The monument, begun in 1947, is still not complete, but the carved granite face of Crazy Horse is instantly recognizable — and visitors can stop by the on-site Indian Museum of North America.
The Wild West, revisited
Deadwood, an 1870s gold-rush town, features prominently in the lore of the American West, thanks to two local legends: gunfighter/lawman Wild Bill Hickok and frontierswoman Calamity Jane. Visit the saloon where Hickok was gunned down in a poker game and enjoy rodeos, concerts, casinos, parades and gunfight re-enactments.
Jewel Cave National Monument — near the town of Custer — is the world’s third-longest cave system, with more than 267 kilometers of mapped passages. It’s open year-round.
Learn more about South Dakota and check out the other 49 states. If you need a visa to visit, here’s how to get one.