This 70-miles (112-km) drive offers
breathtaking views of some of the Black
Hills' most stunning scenery. The popular Needles Highway (SD Highway
87) and Iron Mountain Road (US Highway 16A) are both part of the byway.
Needles Highway features tunnels, hairpin curves and slender granite
pinnacles.The Peter Norbeck Byway winds through three granite tunnels
on Iron Mountain Road. They perfectly frame
the faces of Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the distance. Also on
this wonderful route are three pigtail bridges, built in the 1930s,
which have a
The Mount Rushmore National Memorial features the world's greatest
mountain carving with faces of four exalted American
presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt,
and Abraham Lincoln. These
remarkable 60-foot high faces, 500 feet up, look out over a setting of
spruce, birch, and aspen in the clear western air. Sculptor Gutzon
Borglum began drilling into the 5,725-foot mountain in
1927. Creation of the Shrine of Democracy took 14 years and cost a mere
$1 million, though it's now deemed priceless. The Avenue of Flags leads
from the Concession Building to the Grandview
Terrace. The flags of the 56 states and territories fly below the
memorial. Here, the avenue provides direct and easy access to the
Grandview Terrace and Presidential Trail, a half-mile walking trail
that offers spectacular views of the mountain sculpture.
The Black Hills are in western South Dakota
and northeastern Wyoming, covering an area 125 miles long and 65 miles
wide. They encompass rugged rock formations, canyons and gulches,
open grassland parks, tumbling streams, deep blue lakes, and unique
The Black Hills area has a rich, diverse cultural heritage.
Archaeological evidence suggests the earliest known use of the area
occurred about 10,000 years ago. Later Native Americans, such as
the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Lakota, came to the Black Hills to
seek visions and to purify themselves. The Black Hills was also a
sanctuary where tribes at war could meet in peace.
Exploration of the Black Hills by fur
traders and trappers occurred in
the 1840s. In 1874, General
George A. Custer led an Army exploration into the area and
discovered gold. Settlement of the Black Hills rapidly followed
the discovery of gold. The need for wood to build mines,
railroads, towns and for use as a fuel increased demand for
timber. As settlement continued, agriculture and livestock
grazing added to the area's economic diversity.
A series of large forest fires in 1893 focused attention on the need to
protect the timber resource. On February 22, 1897, President
Grover Cleveland established the Black Hills Forest Reserve. This
land was protected against fires, wasteful lumbering practices, and
timber fraud. In 1898, the first commercial timber sale on
Federal forested land in the United States was authorized in the area
of Jim and Estes Creeks (near the town of Nemo). Cutting began
around Christmas 1899. In 1905, the Black Hills Forest Reserve
was transferred to the Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department
of Agriculture. Two years later it was renamed the Black Hills
Hills National Forest Visitor Center at Pactola Reservoir
includes exhibits on Black Hills natural history and a self-guiding
nature trail. It is open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Black Elk Wilderness is in
the center of the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve. The 13,605-acre
wilderness was named for Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota holy man.
Congress established the wilderness on December 22, 1980; legislation
in 2002 increased its size by 3,774 acres.
Harney Peak, at 7,242 feet
above sea level, is the highest point in the United States east of the
Rockies. From a historic lookout tower on the summit, one has a
panoramic view of parts of South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and
Montana, as well as the granite formations and cliffs of the Black Elk