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South Dakota Road Adventures
Jul 22, 2015
We have a feature in our current South Dakota Magazine (July/August) on traveling Old Highway 16. At first I wanted to title it "Highway 16: The Perfect S.D. Road Trip" but my fellow editors talked me out of that. It sounds like the perfect road trip to me, but probably isn't for those who don't want to go off-roading for a few miles here or there. Our photographer nearly collided with a longhorn cow in Haakon County.
Luckily, we have several other summer travel recommendations for those who like their roads more civilized. Here are some basic recommendations for road-tripping 16, and a few other highlights from our summer travel issue.
Highway 16 covers a 400-mile stretch between our east and west borders, connecting Sioux Falls with Rapid City and several smaller communities along the way. It was part of a 1,600-mile passage between Detroit and Yellowstone National Park that was linked nearly a century ago. A group formed in 1919 to promote the journey in South Dakota, which intersected at times with Highways 14 and 20.
Take time to travel the back roads that are now Highway 16 and you'll find many remnants of its heyday, including places that made the transition to Interstate 90 such as Wall Drug, the Pioneer Auto Show in Murdo and Reptile Gardens. There are also some great restaurants, like Al's Oasis, Hutch’s in Presho and the Back 40 near Kimball, a renovated Highway 16 gas station.
For a complete guide to 16, see our July/August issue. Or, like the article's author, you can play it by ear and see if you can piece together the old roadway on your own. Old 16 enters South Dakota from Minnesota as 262nd Street at Valley Springs, just east of Sioux Falls. The highway is easier to find on the other side of the state because it is still known as U.S. Highway 16.
Our current issue also highlights our state's 13 National Natural Landmarks, any of which would make a great summer road trip. The U.S. Interior Department began the program in 1962 to highlight our country's biological and geological diversity. "The sites help tell the story of our nation's natural heritage through representations of different features," says Heather Eggleston, a regional National Natural Landmark coordinator. "Those included in the program are the best examples of those features still in existence."
South Dakotas 13 designations include glacial lakes and sloughs, timeworn buttes and prehistoric rock. Some of the 13 landmarks are well known, such as Bear Butte, and others were a surprise even to our staff, such as Red Lake (Brule County), Buffalo Slough (Lake County) and Snake Butte (Jackson County).
Snake Butte is 23 miles south of Interior on the Pine Ridge Reservation. It features one of the world’s best collections of sand calcite crystals. In fact, South Dakota is one of only a few places on the globe where the crystals are found. They form when water containing dissolved calcite seeps through sand beds. Over time, the calcite forms crystals that surround the sand, between 15 to 20 inches in length. The butte is located in a beautiful sloping and wide-open area of the Pine Ridge, which is worth the drive itself.
South Dakota sweeping landscapes, amazing geological diversity and friendly communities make it an ideal place to get on the road and see what adventures you'll find. We hope our summer road recommendations inspire you to hit the road — but if it’s Highway 16, be sure to yield to the longhorn cattle.