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Rich Carriero
Created byRich Carriero
Rich Carriero is a freelance writer who has backpacked...

Weirdness and Wonder in South Dakota

Featured Guide
In August some friends and I drove through the southwest corner of South Dakota, checking out the Badlands, Wall Drug, Deadwood, Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills.
Here is the custom guide that accompanies the article:

Sheridan Lake

Black Hills National Forest is a dramatic change from the surrounding dry plains. Filled with lakes and deep forests of aspens and ponderosa pines, it's refreshing just to drive along route 385. Sheridan Lake, however, is the only one of the many lakes in the park to be devoted to swimming and motor...

Jewel Cave National Monument

Jewel Cave is the second longest cave system in the world and one of South Dakota's more hidden treasures. The Heavenly Route descends a tortuous series of ladders and stairs into a deep chamber lined with various crystallized stones. The Dungeon route requires more duckwalking and squatting. The...

Custer State Park

Custer State Park stretches over a gorgeous expanse of the Black Hills. The terrain is hilly, rocky and heavily forested. It's also a great place to see buffalo wandering along the roadside. The campgrounds are fully equipped with flush toilets and showers. There are several camp stores and even a...


Deadwood, along with Tombstone and Dodge City, is one of those towns that is a living symbol of the Old West. A boom town in the 1870's, Deadwood became famous for its gambling and gunfighters. The most famous inhabitant was probably lawman Wild Bill Hickock, who was shot in the back of the head while...

Wall Drug Store

When she found out that I was visiting South Dakota, my mother insisted that we visit Wall Drug. Wall Drug Store is something of a cowboy shopping market, with a chapel, restaurant, video arcade, souvenirs and free ice water. Wall Drug signs line route 90 for miles, exhorting passersby to check out...

Badlands National Park

Badlands is hard country, scorched by sun and wind. Buffalo graze in spacious fields along the roadside. This was one of North America's great hunting grounds.


It rests on a plain in the hot, dry sun. Like the stones of Stonehenge, the cars-50's style trucks, 80's hatchbacks-rise mysteriously, half buried in the ground. A must see of Radom Americana.

Cosmos Mystery Area

The Cosmos Mystery Area bills itself as an area with an unusual gravitational field. It's set in the woods off of route 16 and seems like a cheeseball experience from the get go. We nevertheless paid the fee and took the guided tour. The main exhibit areas are cabins built on a weird slant along the...

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore is so iconic that it's difficult to judge properly. It looks exactly like what you've seen in every postcard your entire life. Looking at it objectively as art, it's impressive what a sculptor can do with only dynamite. The viewing terrace and flag pavilion are a nice touch. Mostly,...

Deadwood Social Club

I went here with my wife and friends because it is highly rated on Google Places. The menu is fairly extensive and the food is cheap. You can feel the age of the interior from heavy wooden doors and metal fixtures to the creak of your footsteps. If you sit outside, you get an excellent view of Main Street....