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Buffalo County, South Dakota facts for kids

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Buffalo County
Fort Thompson Big Bend Dam.
Fort Thompson Big Bend Dam.
Map of South Dakota highlighting Buffalo County
Location within the U.S. state of South Dakota
Map of the United States highlighting South Dakota
South Dakota's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  South Dakota
Founded 1864 (created)
1871 (organized)
Named for American buffalo
Seat Gann Valley
Largest community Fort Thompson
 • Total 488 sq mi (1,260 km2)
 • Land 471 sq mi (1,220 km2)
 • Water 16 sq mi (40 km2)  3.4%
 • Total 1,948
 • Estimate 
1,923 Decrease
 • Density 3.992/sq mi (1.5412/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional district At-large

Buffalo County is a county in the U.S. state of South Dakota. As of the 2020 census, the population was 1,948. Its county seat is Gann Valley which, at 14 people, is the least populous county seat in the United States. The county was created in 1864, and was organized in 1871 as part of the Dakota Territory.

In 2010, the center of population of South Dakota was located in eastern Buffalo County. The Crow Creek Indian Reservation, inhabited by the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe makes up the majority of Buffalo County.

According to the 2013 Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) of the US Census Bureau, about 41% of county residents live in poverty, making it the fifth-poorest county in South Dakota. This is a far higher poverty rate than the national poverty rate of 15.8%. Median household income in 2013 was $21,572, making it the lowest-earning county in South Dakota and the United States.

In March 2019, the county unemployment rate was 3.9%; its ten-year peaks occurred in December 2006 (18.1%) and December 2009 (17.2%). As of 2002, many homes lack kitchens and indoor plumbing.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 488 square miles (1,260 km2), of which 471 square miles (1,220 km2) is land and 16 square miles (41 km2) (3.4%) is water.

Major highways

  • SD 34.svg South Dakota Highway 34
  • SD 45.svg South Dakota Highway 45
  • SD 47.svg South Dakota Highway 47
  • SD 50.svg South Dakota Highway 50

Adjacent counties


As first organized, the county occupied an extensive area, bounded on the north by Canada, southwest and west by the Missouri River, having Montana for a part of its northwest boundary, and comprising a large portion of the “Plateau du Coteau du Missouri,” and a part of the Miniwakan or Devil's Lake. While this does expand into modern-day North Dakota, this conundrum can be solved by realizing that the county was created in 1864, 25 years before the Dakota Territory was split into North and South Dakota.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 246
1880 63 −74.4%
1890 993 1,476.2%
1900 1,790 80.3%
1910 1,589 −11.2%
1920 1,715 7.9%
1930 1,931 12.6%
1940 1,853 −4.0%
1950 1,615 −12.8%
1960 1,547 −4.2%
1970 1,739 12.4%
1980 1,795 3.2%
1990 1,759 −2.0%
2000 2,032 15.5%
2010 1,912 −5.9%
2020 1,948 1.9%
2021 (est.) 1,923 0.6%
US Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2020

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 1,912 people, 532 households, and 407 families in the county. The population density was 4.1 inhabitants per square mile (1.6/km2). There were 609 housing units at an average density of 1.3 per square mile (0.50/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 84.0% Native American, 14.8% white, 0.2% black or African American, 0.1% Asian, 0.0% from other races, and 0.9% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 1.8% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 5.6% were German, and 0.0% were American.

Of the 532 households, 55.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.1% were married couples living together, 33.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 23.5% were non-families, and 19.0% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 3.59 and the average family size was 4.06. The median age was 25.0 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $27,926 and the median income for a family was $28,333. Males had a median income of $38,920 versus $18,542 for females. The per capita income for the county was $11,410. About 44.4% of families and 49.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 58.2% of those under age 18 and 36.3% of those age 65 or over.


Census-designated places

Other unincorporated communities

  • Crow Creek
  • Shelby


The county consists of one township: Elvira; and three areas of unorganized territory: Crow Creek, North Buffalo, and Southeast Buffalo.

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