South Dakota is a land of startling contrasts, a state with two vastly different parts, which are bisected from north to south by the vast Missouri River.
East of the Missouri is a land of rich, rolling farmland, glacial lakes by the dozens in the northeast that offer varied sport fishing and boating, and dozens of small, ethnic communities. Sioux Falls, the state's largest city, lists among its attractions the Great Plains Zoo and several museums. Sixty miles west, at Mitchell, is the Corn Palace, a huge, domed civic center whose exterior walls are covered with mosaics.
West of the river is cowboy and American Indian country: seemingly endless prairie with few trees, the desolate but beautiful Badlands National Park, and the majestic Black Hills, where thick pine forests grow among mountain peaks more than 7,000 feet high.
The Black Hills is the most popular area for visitors. One hundred and twenty miles long and 60 miles wide, this is the home of world-famous Mount Rushmore. There are also Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument. Custer State Park and Wind Cave both have large buffalo herds, plenty of campsites, horseback riding, and hiking trails. Adventurous hikers can tackle one of several fairly strenuous but scenic trails up Harney Peak, the highest US mountain east of the Rockies at 7,242 feet. And adventurous drivers can get off the main roads to travel the remote Forest Service roads to the dozens of ghost towns and abandoned gold mines in the area. The nation's largest working gold mine, the Homestake, is in Lead and has surface tours.
Trout are stocked in the mountain streams and lakes. Boating, waterskiing, and fishing are popular in several large man-made reservoirs. Downhill and cross-country skiing are popular in winter.
Rapid City, the state's second largest city, is at the east edge of the Black Hills. It has a variety of free attractions, from museums to a fairy-tale children's park.
Across South Dakota, there are more than 60 rodeos throughout the summer, plus numerous fairs and festivals with activities such as fiddle playing, log cutting, grain threshing, tomahawk throwing, hot-air ballooning, and powwow dancing.