59 Fun & Interesting Facts About South Dakota

Are you ready to explore a place with towering mountains, deep caves, and amazing history? Let’s journey to South Dakota, a state that’s full of surprises and incredible sights. From the famous faces carved into a mountain to the wide-open prairies, South Dakota is a place where adventure waits around every corner. So, grab your explorer’s hat, and let’s find out some cool facts about South Dakota!

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First up, have you ever heard of Mount Rushmore? It’s a huge mountain in South Dakota where the faces of four U.S. presidents are carved right into the rock! Imagine looking up and seeing the giant faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. It’s like a giant outdoor sculpture, and people from all over come to see it.

But that’s not all South Dakota has to offer. There’s also a place called the Badlands National Park. It’s full of rugged landscapes, colorful rock formations, and ancient fossils. Walking through the Badlands is like stepping back in time; you might even feel like you’re on another planet because it looks so different from anywhere else!

And did you know South Dakota is home to one of the largest caves in the world? It’s called Wind Cave, and it has miles and miles of passageways to explore. The cave is famous for its beautiful calcite formations called boxwork. Plus, above ground, there’s a park where you can see bison, prairie dogs, and other wildlife roaming free.

Are you excited to learn more facts about South Dakota? From the majestic Mount Rushmore to the mysterious depths of Wind Cave, there’s so much to discover in this amazing state. Let’s keep our adventure going and uncover all the incredible things that make South Dakota a special place to visit and learn about!

Be sure to discover even more interesting facts with our Facts about Minnesota and our Facts about Michigan.

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Facts about South Dakota

  1. Officially nicknamed “The Mount Rushmore State” as well as the “Coyote State” and the “Land of Infinite Variety,” South Dakota was the 40th state to join the United States of America on November 2, 1889.
  2. In Deadwood, a permit is required to mix one alcoholic beverage with another. But you can mix all the beer you want.
  3. The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie granted the Black Hills and land in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana to the Lakota. The U.S. seized the land nine years later, forcing Native Americans to resettle.
  4. South Dakota’s State motto is “Under God the People Rule.”
  5. The highest peak in South Dakota is Black Elk Peak, located in the Black Hills at 7,242 feet. The lowest point in the state is Big Stone Lake located on the border of Minnesota at 965 feet.
  6. It is illegal in South Dakota for casinos to hang a sign saying “Casino.”
  7. The state tree is the Black Hills Spruce which is a variety of White Spruce that is widely distributed across northern North America and native to the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.
  8. South Dakota is part of the North Central and Midwest regions of the United States. Most of the state lies within the Great Plains.
  9. Shooting animals from an airplane is a crime.
  10. The Nobel Prize winning scientist Ernest Lawrence of Canton, South Dakota built the first cyclotron, an atom-smashing machine.
  11. Lewis and Clark, explorers on an official mission, visited South Dakota in 1804 and 1806. The second time was on the return trip back to the East Coast.
  12. No horses are allowed into Fountain Inn unless they are wearing pants.
  13. The state flower is the American Pasque which grows wild throughout South Dakota and much of North America in the spring. You might hear the American Pasque also called the May Day flower.
  14. South Dakota encompasses a total area of 77,116 mi² (199,729 km²), which is the same size as Kyrgyzstan and nearly the same as Senegal.
  15. At least 13,000 years ago, the first people arrived in what is now South Dakota. Thousands of years later, Native American tribes such as Cheyenne, Ponca, Lakota, Dakota, and Arikara lived on the land.
  16.  In South Dakota, a person is required to have a license to hunt with a raptor.
  17. It is illegal to fall asleep in a cheese factory.
  18. The state insect is the honey bee. In 2021, honey production from South Dakota producers with five or more colonies totaled 12.3 million pounds! South Dakota is ranked second in the nation for honey production.
  19. South Dakota’s population is just under 900,000 people, making it the 5th least populous state. Only Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, and North Dakota have fewer people.
  20. South Dakota is home to more than 175 species of butterflies.
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  1. Dakota roughly means “friendly” or “allies”, it is a native American Sioux word.
  2. In the 1890s, Sioux Falls was crowned the “Divorce Capital of the Plains.”
  3. South Dakota is a paradise for those interested in rocks, minerals, and gemstones. The rose quartz, which can be found in the Black Hills, was designated a state mineral in 1966.
  4. The capital city of South Dakota is Pierre. With a population of 14,000, it is the second smallest U.S. state capital, after Montpelier, Vermont.
  5. In South Dakota, prison inmates are required to pay for their incarceration costs, barring any other financial obligations.
  6. The first Europeans to set foot on the land were the Verendrye brothers, who claimed the land for France in 1743.
  7. Mitchell is the home of the world’s only Corn Palace, which is made of 3500 bushels of corn.
  8. There are eight cities in South Dakota larger than Pierre. The largest is Sioux Falls (population 192,500), which is the 131st largest city in the U.S. It is the only South Dakota city with more than 100,000 people.
  9. When gold was discovered in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1874, many fortune seekers rushed to the area. Two years later, more than 10,000 people populated the hills.
  10. Carrie Ingalls of “Little House on the Prairie” lived most of her adult life in Keystone.
  11. South Dakota has the 4th highest percentage of Native Americans in any state, at 10% (only Alaska (20%), Oklahoma (13%) and New Mexico (10.7%) are higher. 
  12. In total, South Dakota has nine reservations and about 60,000 indigenous people.
  13. The Great Dakota Boom began in 1878 when people rushed to obtain land in South Dakota. The arrival of the railroad sped up settlement in the area.
  14. In Huron, it is against the law to cause static.
  15. People who live in the state are called South Dakotans.
  16.  The USS South Dakota was the battleship in World War II with the most decorations. That is because of the 13 battle stars and Navy Unit Commendations.
  17. Belle Fourche is the geographical center of the United States of America.
  18. South Dakota is known by the nickname “The Mount Rushmore State”, after its most famous attraction, the carvings of four presidents’ faces on Mount Rushmore.
  19. South Dakota leads the nation in production of bison and pheasants. Agriculture is its top industry, generating one-third of its overall economic activity.
  20. Mount Rushmore took 14 years and $1 million to build.
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  1. Mt. Rushmore was called the Mountain of Rock before the faces of our presidents were carved into the side of it.
  2. The state’s tourism slogans have included “Great Faces, Great Places”, “Your American Journey”, and “My Great Place.”
  3. It is estimated that a total of 450,000 tons of rock was removed to create the enormous carved heads. More than 2 million people visit Mount Rushmore every year, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S.
  4. Hunters cannot use spotlights, except to hunt raccoons.
  5. There are 4 cows for every human in South Dakota, the highest ratio of any U.S. state.
  6. The mountain was named for the New York lawyer Charles E. Rushmore. The lawyer traveled to the Black Hills in 1884 to inspect mining claims in the region.
  7. Custer State Park in East Custer is home to a herd of 1,500 free-roaming bison.
  8. The world’s only Corn Palace can be visited in Mitchell, South Dakota. The Palace is made from over 3,500 bushels of corn.
  9. The original design for Mount Rushmore National Memorial included the four presidents from head to waist. However, after the death of the sculptor Gutzon Borglum, and due to World War II, the nation had to limit the funding for the project.
  10. The Flaming Fountain on South Dakota State Capitol Lake is fed by an artesian well with natural gas content so high that it causes it to glow.
  11. The state hosts a famous mashed potato wrestling contest, part of Potato Days in Clark. Mashed potato wrestling can also be enjoyed in Maine and Minnesota.
  12. The eastern region of the state, due to its fertile soil, helps in the production of a variety of crops and also contains the majority of the state’s population.
  13. The western region is heavily dependent on tourism and defense activity for its economy. Ranching is also a predominant agricultural activity in the west of the state. 
  14.  The Sturgis motorcycle rally is held annually in Sturgis, South Dakota, to promote tourism in the Black Hills. A group of Indian bikers started the rally in 1938.
  15. The highest temperature on record in South Dakota was on July 15, 2006, at Usta, at 120°F (48.9°C). The lowest was on February 17, 1936 at McIntosh, -58°F (-50°C).
  16. According to many visitors, Sica Hollow State Park is spooky. That is due to the many Native Americans who died there.
  17.  The Prairie Rattlesnake is the only venomous snake that is native to South Dakota.
  18. Homestake Mine in South Dakota was North America’s deepest gold mine until it closed in 2002. Today it is used for dark matter research.
  19. Rose Quartz was adopted as the official State Mineral in 1966. It was first discovered near Custer, South Dakota, in the 1880s.

Do you have even more interesting facts about South Dakota? Share them with us in the comments! 

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