South Dakota:

Published: Monday, July 30, 2007

The land more popularly referred to as "Mount Rushmore State" started out as an agricultural estate but now counts tourism as among its prime economic movers. This should not come as a total surprise, for South Dakota boasts of many fertile prairie lands topped by mountains, hills, caves, and forests that should make for good exploration.

A Tour of South Dakota Regions

A look into the landscape comprising South Dakota should reveal four distinct regions that each characterizes the best sides of the "Mount Rushmore State" where exploration is most ideal. These zones include the Black Hills, Badlands, and Lakes Region, the Great Lakes Region, the Glacial Lakes and Prairies Region, and the Southeast Region.

The Black Hills, Badlands, and Lakes Region

Set in the southwestern front of South Dakota, the region boasts of a multitude of natural attractions that could perhaps be the largest in the "Mount Rushmore State" in terms of area coverage. Generally, however, three principal landforms comprise the region, including the Badlands area, the Black Hills area, and the prairie lands consisting of short-grass high plains. Each of these areas offer diverse outdoor opportunities that RVers will find most engaging.

The Badlands area is encased in a national park that covers 244,000 acres where gorges, buttes, and pinnacles of varying types and forms await exploration from daring climbers. Wild animals like antelopes, coyotes, deers, and buffaloes abound here, making for excellent wildlife viewing.

Black Hills, meanwhile, is a thick forest area extending from the Rocky Mountains highlighted by trees of aspens, spruces, and ponderosa pines interspersed by deep canyons, towering peaks, and pristine lakes. RVers will find fishing, mountain climbing, and hiking totally exhilarating here even as the many public parks offer wildlife views of such animals as grizzly bears, buffaloes, deers, elks, cougars, antelopes, and wolves.

Balancing these gigantic regional attractions is the prairie land with its short-grass features. Composed of a vast tract of high plains, the area gets complemented by several rivers that traverse its waterways headlined by the lovely Cheyenne River. Needless to say, fishing is one outdoor activity in these parts that no visiting RVer would dare just pass by.

For full appreciation of these regional attractions, a one-day tour may not be sufficient. A good option then is to find an RV park settled near the said attractions, something that Rapid City KOA can conveniently address. With its home base set in Rapid City, this RV park offers a short driving time to reach nearby destinations like the vast Black Hills National Forest, the Custer State Park, and various public parks like Mt. Rushmore.

The Great Lakes Region

The eastern side of this region consists mainly of agricultural land planted to wheat, soybeans, and corn while the western end is a ranch area where cattle raising took over the land once occupied by large buffalo herds.

However, the main attraction here is historic Missouri River from where four man-made lakes were eventually created behind four massive dams. The largest of these dams, the Oahe, lends support to the waters of the Missouri, extending over 200 miles well into North Dakota. Within these parts, RVers will find such outdoor activities as fishing and boating totally engaging ventures.

For further exploration of the Missouri River and its accompanying attractions, RVers can head off to the eastern shore of the river where American Creek Campground will welcome their RVs with open arms. Technically under the jurisdiction of Chamberlain City, the RV campground complements the activities engaged in at the Missouri River with its own fishing, boating, and swimming offerings, apart from the usual camping ventures.

The Glacial Lakes and Prairies Region

The South Dakota tourism board gave this region its present name to stress the approximately 120 lakes that lie in its midst. These lakes were formed from melted glaciers centuries ago, eventually finding their way around the prairie lands that comprise a significant portion of the northeastern half of South Dakota. Small as they are, the lakes are rather fertile but serene, providing the perfect venue for engaging in such outdoor pursuits as swimming, water-skiing, sailing, boating, and fishing.

However, despite the presence of so many regional lakes, the most prominent attraction here is actually Wylie Park nestled in Aberdeen, the third biggest city of South Dakota. The park, found a mile away from the city proper, sits on 210 acres and features several unique but exciting attractions like the Land of Oz and Storybook Land. For pure outdoor recreation, hiking trails, miniature golf courses, swimming beaches, and volleyball and softball fields can all be explored here alongside wildlife views of buffaloes, elks, deer, and many more.

Access to Wylie Park River should not be so difficult since there is Wylie Park Campground to head off to. Situated within the vicinity of the park, the campground holds 97 RV sites and can accommodate fairly large trailers.

The Southeast Region

A heavily-populated area, the southeastern tip of South Dakota is largely agricultural with most towns carrying either grain or livestock farms. Yet, there are also attractions here that should cater to the outdoor interests of many RVers. These come in the form of public parks, quiet bays, and rugged cliffs.

Regional lakes, both man-made and natural, however, occupy the more significant areas of the region as they number to around 175. Of these various water forms, the most prominent has to be the Big Sioux River nestled in Sioux Falls, the largest city of South Dakota. Along with the famous Missouri River, it provides RVers with countless water-based activities like fishing, swimming, boating, and even wildlife viewing.

For easy access to the said river, RV-boarded travelers can visit Trent-based River of the Double Bend Campground which lies beside the Big Sioux River, about 25 miles away from the northern tip of Sioux Falls. The RV campground boasts of 20 RV sites and can accommodate as many as 20 slide-outs.

Exploring the Cities of South Dakota

Many of the cities found in the "Mount Rushmore State" carry diverse attractions that are generally RV-accessible. However, in places where the mountains are the dominant features, RV-accessibility could prove to be a major issue. Checking out how RV-friendly a South Dakota city is should be a priority among RV-boarded travelers.


It is among the premiere cities of the Black Hills, Badlands, and Lakes Region of South Dakota and proudly carries the name of the 1874 American general George A. Custer whose expedition into the French Creek resulted in the first recorded gold discovery in the US. For the achievement, a state park bearing his name was made which presently covers 71,000 acres.

Custer State Park is undoubtedly the most popular city attraction as far as RV-boarded travelers are concerned since it is situated a mere five minutes from the city proper. Additionally, its spectacular terrains offer good venues for holding various outdoor activities like rock climbing, horseback riding, and mountain biking although the more popular pursuit is hiking, with Harney Peak providing the ultimate challenge with its towering height of 7,242 feet.

For family entertainment, Custer offers the Flintstone's Bedrock City, a sprawling 30-acre theme park that is actually a recreation of the stone-age village of the famous TV animated show, The Flintstones. RV-boarded travelers can treat their kids to this unique amusement park that features a ride aboard the Flintmobile.

Seeing these city attractions aboard an RV should not pose any problem since there are several RV parks in Custer where one can spend the night in just in case driving home proves to be a little dangerous or if the family wishes to stay a little longer. Of these many RV parks, Big Pine Campground offers a good deal as popular Custer-based attractions like Custer State Park and Flintstones Bedrock City can be accessed quite easily.


For RVers looking forward to experiencing genuine Old West setting, Deadwood is one South Dakota city that brings back to life every imaginable Wild West event through well-recreated cowboy towns and historic saloons where prominent personalities like Wild Bill Hickock literally rose to notoriety. The whole of Deadwood is, in fact, a National Historic Landmark that has inspired and awed many visitors with its many colorful characters and events.

However, there is more to Deadwood than just its rich history. Present-day Deadwood is actually a popular destination among RVers not only because of its glorious past but also because of its modern features that include casino houses as it happens to be the only South Dakota city where gambling is completely legal.

Family entertainment can also be experienced at Deadwood for it plays host to Comfort Inn at Gulches of Fun, an amusement center that features various kiddie fun rides like Bumper Boats and Go-Karts. For adults, there is a miniature golf course available.

After a day of enjoyment, RV-boarded families should ideally settle in at Fish 'N Fry Campground situated about six miles from Southern Deadwood. The RV park offers a refreshing dip in the resident swimming pool that has heated waters although if RVers find it more relaxing to play golf, the lovely Tomahawk Golf Course is set only about a mile away.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

High up in the forest area of Black Hills stands its most famous resident, Mount Rushmore, home of the sculpted busts of four of the greatest US Presidents namely George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt. For many RVers visiting South Dakota, seeing this famous mountain has got to be among the highlights of their journey.

A tour of Mt. Rushmore affords RVers the opportunity not only to see the busts up close but also to see the exotic faunas typical of the surrounding environs that have made the mountain their home. Additionally, getting to see Mt. Rushmore affords one the chance to examine the amazing geological formations that have developed in and around the mountains and its outlying peaks, an experience every veteran mountain climber will definitely appreciate.

Hikers and bikers will likewise find their place here as there are trails scattered all across Mt. Rushmore where a view of the busts is simply outstanding. This is most evident along the Presidential Trail which begins at the Visitor Center and winds up at the foot of Mt. Rushmore.

For those bringing along their RVs, Crooked Creek Campground and Resort offers good RV parking but more importantly provides a scenic cruise that will lead directly to the mountain. From the campground, RVers can take a left turn at US 385, heading south and driving for at least a mile before finally turning left at State Road 244.

Lake Herman State Park

Situated in the Southeast Region of South Dakota near Madison City, Lake Herman State Park is the official home of Lake Herman, a 1,350-acre wide lake that has long been popular among outdoor lovers as a suitable camping ground. Its waters, formed from melted glaciers a thousand years ago, regularly attracts boaters and anglers while the woodland area set nearby is shrouded in native oak trees, making for convenient hiking paths and a natural habitat for various wildlife, particularly birds, who have come to consider the park their home.

Needless to say, Lake Herman State Park, named after Herman Luce, its first settler, is an outdoor paradise in South Dakota that RVers will find worthy of exploring especially since there is a diversity of outdoor interests that can be explored in these parts. More importantly, RV-boarded travelers may find no need to look for a nearby RV campground since the state park itself ostensibly offers RV-friendly sites as overnight options are available, with campers getting to choose one site from among 70 electrically hooked-up areas.

A Time for a South Dakota Visit

Generally divided from its northern to southern point by the renowned Missouri River, South Dakota belongs to the mid-west American states category. It typically enjoys temperate climate and unlike other grassland areas, summer here is typically warm but generally pleasant. Partly aided by its many mountains, South Dakota averages summer temperatures of between 25 to 30 degrees, making summer visits most ideal.

Winter months, meanwhile, are rather harsh, with temperatures often plunging below zero degrees. Again, owing to its many mountains, snow fall in South Dakota is quite heavy, and sometimes accompanied by icy winds. These extreme weather conditions are often felt in the prairies and visiting these areas at this time will be rather unpleasant, to say the least.

It was formerly called Hazel RV Park set about five miles from Southern Canistota town in South Dakota. Why the change in name is not really a big mystery since it is quite clear that the main feature of this RV campground is fishing, particularly in the waters surrounding Lake Vermillion. The lake, set about five miles from the eastern side of the campground, offers really great fishing ventures.

One other thing that makes stand out from the others is that it is one RV park that is not only RV-friendly but pet-friendly as well. Unlike other RV parks, has a resident veterinarian ready to address the needs of every pet. Meanwhile, for RV-boarded travelers feeling sick or simply not in the proper outdoor mode, the Ortman Clinic down at nearby Main Street could offer relief with its chiropractic approach to healing.

Of course, for the RVs, there are 12 sites to choose from, each one equipped with electric and water hook-ups. For nourishment, two excellent diners await visitation while a one-stop market, a fuel station, a carwash terminal, and a Laundromat branch are all situated close by.

Broken Arrow Campground

On the southern corner of historic Custer City lies this RV park that affords RVers convenient access to many familiar city attractions like Limestone Ridge, Buckhorn Mountain, Needles Spirals, and Harney Peak. Yet, the grounds that surround Broken Arrow Campground, the Black Hills National Forest, is already an attraction by itself that RV-boarded travelers may not need to go out of the park premises to experience total camping pleasure.

In any case, a stay at Broken Arrow Campground is bound to be memorable as RVers are given the chance to explore the famous countryside area of South Dakota via two different modes, either on horseback or on foot. This should be a refreshing treat for many RVers who simply want to experience the simple and uncomplicated life completely different from that existing in the city.

For even more attractions, RV-boarded visitors who check in at Broken Arrow Campground can expect to reach such places as Crazy Horse Mountain, Jewel Cave and Wind Cave National Parks, and Custer State Park within minutes as these are situated only several miles away from the campground. Custer State Park, in particular, ought to be quite an attraction since buffalo herds are quite common in its midst and getting to see them should be a most memorable event.
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