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City officials erected a monument celebrating Belle Fourche's status as Center of the Nation, but the real spot lies north of town. SD Tourism photo.
City officials erected a monument celebrating Belle Fourche's status as Center of the Nation, but the real spot lies north of town. SD Tourism photo.

Our Nation's Exact Middle

Jan 16, 2013

 

Finding the exact center of anything as big as the United States of America is tough — even very smart people in white lab coats at the National Geodetic Survey will attest to that.

Still, when they took their best shot at determining the exact center of the nation, the scientists agreed on a prairie spot about a half hour’s drive northwest of Belle Fourche. The nation’s center was in Kansas until 1959, when Alaska and Hawaii won statehood. That shifted the center about 440 miles northward to a privately owned ranch near Belle Fourche, a cowboy town of about 5,600 people that has large rodeo sculptures by local artist Tony Chytka on its street corners. City officials have a monument in town to celebrate the designation and hope to eventually buy the land around America’s true center point, but until that happens, you have to go over or under a barbed wire fence.

To find the exact center, start at the junction of US 85 and US 212 in Belle Fourche and drive 13 miles north. Take a left on Harding County Road and drive 7.8 miles until you see a gray barn on the left. Look to your right for a red, white and blue sign that says you’ve reached the Center of the Nation. A survey marker and American flag mark the spot. Beware of rattlesnakes on warm days.

For more on the town and America's center, call 605-892-2676 or visit the Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce website

 

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in South Dakota Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities and Other Offbeat Stuff by Bernie Hunhoff. To order a copy, visit our online store or call us at 1-800-456-5117.


Comments

05:44 am - Thu, January 17 2013
Ed Goss said:
How about a story on the rancher that owned the land in'59. How do you pronouce his last name in the Belle Fourche area and how do the say that name in the area he came from prior to moving to Belle.

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