The DakotasThe Dakotas are the land of wide-open spaces, dramatic history, scenic beauty, and farmlands that stretch as far as the eye can see. From the Badlands and Black Hills of western South Dakota to the fun-loving eastern town of Fargo, North Dakota, this area truly has it all.
Begin your visit in the west, starting in North Dakota with the fabulous Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Located on land that this famous president visited and lived on, this is a terrific place to hike, go horseback riding, or watch for animals like bison, elk, pronghorn, mule deer, white-tailed deer, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs. With moving scenic views and a wide blue sky, it's no wonder Teddy Roosevelt later said, ëI never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.í
Heading south, you'll find the most famous hot-spots of South Dakota. Outside the town of Lead, just south of Interstate 90, lies the old gambling town of Deadwood, recently popularized in a cable TV series. The entire town is now a national historic landmark, preserved to celebrate the history of the Wild West. The town was founded in 1876 when gold was discovered in the area, and a flurry of saloon-building soon followed to draw in the newly-rich prospectors. This is also the burial place of legendary figures such as Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.
No visit to the area is complete without a stop in the stunning Black Hills region. Filled with sweet-scented ponderosa pine forests, dancing streams, and colorful history, this is an ideal place to camp, hike, go bird watching, or boating. You can explore the scenic prairies of Custer State Park and see the 139-mile long cave at the Jewel Cave National Monument. Then head south of Custer State Park to Wind Cave National Park, a perfect place for a cave tour or a hike along the thirty miles of trails.
From Rapid City, travel east on Highway 44 to Badlands National Park, an amazingly colorful geological wonderland. These 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires are the territory of bison, bighorn sheep, endangered black-footed ferrets, and swift fox. This area is a photographer's dream with pastel-colored formations, dramatic sunsets, and plenty of remote areas to explore. Itís easy to imagine the bad guys of yesteryear hiding out in this mysterious landscape.
On the eastern side of North and South Dakota, you'll find the big cities of Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Fargo, North Dakota. Sioux Falls is known for its spectacular Falls Park and its historic downtown, Old Courthouse area, and All Saints district. Don't miss the chance to enjoy lunch or dinner with a view of the falls or to tour one of the 19th-centry Victorian homes.
Fargo, North Dakota, set on the border with Minnesota, offers the superb Fargo Air Museum, a 1926 restored theater, and the Plains Art Museum. You can enjoy a wine tasting at the Maple River Winery or catch a race at the Red River Valley Speedway. Kids are sure to enjoy the Red River Zoo, the Skateland Skate Center and Sports Bubble, or the Santa Village at Rheault Farm.
With scenic beauty everywhere you look, time almost seems to stand still in the Dakotas. Take your time passing through, and donít forget to watch for soaring hawks and waving sunflowers.