South Dakota facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
|State of South Dakota|
The Mount Rushmore State (official)
Under God the People Rule
|Anthem: "Hail, South Dakota!"|
Map of the United States with South Dakota highlighted
|Before statehood||Dakota Territory|
|Admitted to the Union||November 2, 1889 (39th or 40th)|
|• Total||77,116 sq mi (199,729 km2)|
|• Land||75,811 sq mi (196,350 km2)|
|• Water||1,305 sq mi (3,379 km2) 1.7%|
|• Length||380 mi (610 km)|
|• Width||210 mi (340 km)|
|Elevation||2,200 ft (670 m)|
|Highest elevation||7,244 ft (2,208 m)|
|Lowest elevation||968 ft (295 m)|
|• Density||11.44/sq mi (4.42/km2)|
|• Density rank||46th|
|• Median household income||$56,521|
|• Income rank||30th|
|• Official language||English • Sioux|
|eastern half||UTC−06:00 (Central)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−05:00 (CDT)|
|western half||UTC−07:00 (Mountain)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−06:00 (MDT)|
|ISO 3166 code||US-SD|
|Trad. abbreviation||S.D., S.Dak.|
|Latitude||42°29′ N to 45°56′ N|
|Longitude||96°26′ W to 104°03′ W|
|South Dakota state symbols|
|Flower||American Pasque flower|
|Grass||Western wheat grass|
|Tree||Black Hills Spruce|
|Other||Kuchen (state dessert)|
|State route marker|
Released in 2006
|Lists of United States state symbols|
South Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States. It is named after the Lakota and Dakota Sioux Native American tribes, who compose a significant portion of the population and historically dominated the entire territory.
Once the southern portion of the Dakota Territory, South Dakota became a state on November 2, 1889, simultaneously with North Dakota.
South Dakota is bordered by the states of North Dakota (on the north), Minnesota (to the east), Iowa (to the southeast), Nebraska (on the south), Wyoming (on the west), and Montana (on the west). The state is bisected by the Missouri River, dividing South Dakota into two geographically and socially distinct halves, known to residents as "East River" and "West River". Eastern South Dakota is home to most of the state's population, and fertile soil in this area is used to grow a variety of crops. West of the Missouri, ranching is the predominant agricultural activity, and the economy is more dependent on tourism and defense spending. Most of the Native American reservations are located in West River.
The Black Hills, a group of low pine-covered mountains sacred to the Sioux, are located in the southwest part of the state. Mount Rushmore, a major tourist destination, is located there. South Dakota experiences a temperate continental climate, with four distinct seasons and precipitation ranging from moderate in the east to semi-arid in the west. The ecology of the state features species typical of a North American grassland biome.
Humans have inhabited the area for several millennia, with the Sioux becoming dominant by the early 19th century.
South Dakota is situated in the north-central United States, and is considered a part of the Midwest by the U.S. Census Bureau; it is also part of the Great Plains region. The culture, economy, and geography of western South Dakota have more in common with the West than the Midwest. South Dakota has a total area of 77,116 square miles (199,730 km2), making the state the 17th largest in the Union.
Black Elk Peak, formerly named Harney Peak, with an elevation of 7,242 ft (2,207 m), is the state's highest point, while the shoreline of Big Stone Lake is the lowest, with an elevation of 966 ft (294 m). South Dakota is bordered to the north by North Dakota; to the south by Nebraska; to the east by Iowa and Minnesota; and to the west by Wyoming and Montana. The geographical center of the U.S. is 17 miles (27 km) west of Castle Rock in Butte County. The North American continental pole of inaccessibility is located between Allen and Kyle, 1,024 mi (1,648 km) from the nearest coastline.
The Missouri River is the largest and longest river in the state. Other major South Dakota rivers include the Cheyenne, James, Big Sioux, and White Rivers. Eastern South Dakota has many natural lakes, mostly created by periods of glaciation. Additionally, dams on the Missouri River create four large reservoirs: Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe, Lake Francis Case, and Lewis and Clark Lake.
Regions and geology
South Dakota can generally be divided into three regions: eastern South Dakota, western South Dakota, and the Black Hills. The Missouri River serves as a boundary in terms of geographic, social, and political differences between eastern and western South Dakota. The geography of the Black Hills, long considered sacred ground by Native Americans, differs from its surroundings to such an extent that it can be considered separate from the rest of western South Dakota. At times the Black Hills are combined with the rest of western South Dakota, and people often refer to the resulting two regions divided by the Missouri River as West River and East River.
Eastern South Dakota generally features higher precipitation and lower topography than the western part of the state. Smaller geographic regions of this area include the Coteau des Prairies, the Dissected Till Plains, and the James River Valley. The Coteau des Prairies is a plateau bordered on the east by the Minnesota River Valley and on the west by the James River Basin. Further to the west, the James River Basin is mostly low, flat, highly eroded land, following the flow of the James River through South Dakota from north to south. The Dissected Till Plains, an area of rolling hills and fertile soil that covers much of Iowa and Nebraska, extends into the southeastern corner of South Dakota. Layers deposited during the Pleistocene epoch, starting around two million years ago, cover most of eastern South Dakota. These are the youngest rock and sediment layers in the state, and are the product of several successive periods of glaciation which deposited a large amount of rocks and soil, known as till, over the area.
The Great Plains cover most of the western two-thirds of South Dakota. West of the Missouri River the landscape becomes more arid and rugged, consisting of rolling hills, plains, ravines, and steep flat-topped hills called buttes. In the south, east of the Black Hills, lie the South Dakota Badlands. Erosion from the Black Hills, marine skeletons which fell to the bottom of a large shallow sea that once covered the area, and volcanic material all contribute to the geology of this area.
The Black Hills are in the southwestern part of South Dakota and extend into Wyoming. This range of low mountains covers 6,000 sq mi (16,000 km2), with peaks that rise from 2,000 to 4,000 feet (600 to 1,200 m) above their bases. The Black Hills are the location of Black Elk Peak (7,242 ft or 2,207 m above sea level), the highest point in South Dakota and also the highest point in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Two billion-year-old Precambrian formations, the oldest rocks in the state, form the central core of the Black Hills. Formations from the Paleozoic Era form the outer ring of the Black Hills; these were created between roughly 540 and 250 million years ago. This area features rocks such as limestone, which were deposited here when the area formed the shoreline of an ancient inland sea.
Much of South Dakota (except for the Black Hills area) is dominated by a temperate grasslands biome. Although grasses and crops cover most of this region, deciduous trees such as cottonwoods, elms, and willows are common near rivers and in shelter belts. Mammals in this area include bison, deer, pronghorn, coyotes, and prairie dogs. The state bird, the ring-necked pheasant, has adapted well to the area after being introduced from China. Growing populations of bald eagles are spread throughout the state, especially near the Missouri River. Rivers and lakes of the grasslands support populations of walleye, carp, pike, bass, and other species. The Missouri River also contains the pre-historic paddlefish.
Due to a higher elevation and level of precipitation, the Black Hills ecology differs significantly from that of the plains. The mountains are thickly blanketed by various types of pines, including ponderosa and lodgepole pines, as well as spruces. Black Hills mammals include deer, elk (wapiti), bighorn sheep, mountain goats, pine marten, and mountain lions, while the streams and lakes contain several species of trout.
South Dakota has a continental climate with four distinct seasons, ranging from cold, dry winters to hot and semi-humid summers. During the summers, the average high temperature throughout the state is often close to 90 °F (32 °C), although it cools to near 60 °F (16 °C) at night. It is not unusual for South Dakota to have severe hot, dry spells in the summer with the temperature climbing above 100 °F (38 °C) several times a year. Winters are cold with January high temperatures averaging below freezing and low temperatures averaging below 10 °F (−12 °C) in most of the state. The highest recorded temperature is 120 °F (49 °C) at Usta on July 15, 2006 and the lowest recorded temperature is −58 °F (−50 °C) at McIntosh on February 17, 1936.
Average annual precipitation in South Dakota ranges from semi-arid conditions in the northwestern part of the state (around 15 inches or 380 mm) to semi-humid around the southeast portion of the state (around 25 inches or 640 mm), although a small area centered on Lead in the Black Hills has the highest precipitation at nearly 30 inches (760 mm) per year.
South Dakota summers bring frequent, sometimes severe, thunderstorms with high winds, thunder, and hail. The eastern part of the state is often considered part of Tornado Alley, and South Dakota experiences an average of 30 tornadoes each year. Severe weather in the form of blizzards and ice storms occurs often during winter.
National parks and monuments
South Dakota contains several sites that are administered by the National Park Service. Two national parks have been established in South Dakota, both located in the southwestern part of the state. Wind Cave National Park, established in 1903 in the Black Hills, contains an extensive cave network as well as a large herd of bison. Badlands National Park was created in 1978. The park features an eroded, brightly colored landscape surrounded by semi-arid grasslands. Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills was established in 1925. The sculpture of four U.S. Presidents was carved into the mountainside by sculptor Gutzon Borglum.
Other areas managed by the National Park Service include Jewel Cave National Monument near Custer, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, which features a decommissioned nuclear missile silo and a separate missile control area located several miles away, and the Missouri National Recreational River. The Crazy Horse Memorial is a large mountainside sculpture near Mt. Rushmore that is being constructed with private funds. The Mammoth Site near Hot Springs is another privately owned attraction in the Black Hills. A working paleontological dig, the site contains one of the largest concentrations of mammoth remains in the world.
- See also: Timeline of South Dakota
Humans have lived in what is today South Dakota for several thousand years, at least. The first inhabitants were Paleoindian hunter-gatherers, and disappeared from the area around 5000 BC. Between 500 AD and 800 AD, a semi-nomadic people known as the Mound Builders lived in central and eastern South Dakota. In the 14th century, the Crow Creek Massacre occurred, in which several hundred men, women, and children were killed near the Missouri River.
By 1500, the Arikara (or Ree) had settled in much of the Missouri River valley. European contact with the area began in 1743, when the LaVérendrye brothers explored the region. The LaVérendrye group buried a plate near the site of modern-day Pierre, claiming the region for France as part of greater Louisiana. in 1762 the entire region became part of the Spanish Louisiana until 1802. By the early 19th century, the Sioux had largely replaced the Arikara as the dominant group in the area.
In 1803, the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory, an area that included most of South Dakota, from Napoleon Bonaparte, and President Thomas Jefferson organized a group commonly referred to as the "Lewis and Clark Expedition" to explore the newly acquired region. In 1817, an American fur trading post was set up at present-day Fort Pierre, beginning continuous American settlement of the area. In 1855, the U.S. Army bought Fort Pierre but abandoned it in 1857 in favor of Fort Randall to the south. Settlement by Americans and Europeans was by this time increasing rapidly, and in 1858 the Yankton Sioux signed the 1858 Treaty, ceding most of present-day eastern South Dakota to the United States.
Land speculators founded two of eastern South Dakota's largest present-day cities: Sioux Falls in 1856 and Yankton in 1859. In 1861, the Dakota Territory was established by the United States government (this initially included North Dakota, South Dakota, and parts of Montana and Wyoming). Settlement of the area, mostly by people from the eastern United States as well as western and northern Europe, increased rapidly, especially after the completion of an eastern railway link to Yankton in 1873.
In 1874, gold was discovered in the Black Hills during a military expedition led by George A. Custer and miners and explorers began illegally entering land promised to the Lakota. Custer's expedition took place despite the fact that the US had granted the entire western half of present-day South Dakota (West River) to the Sioux in 1868 by the Treaty of Laramie as part of the Great Sioux Reservation.
The Sioux declined to grant mining rights or land in the Black Hills, and war broke out after the U.S. failed to stop white miners and settlers from entering the region. Eventually the US defeated the Sioux and broke up the Great Sioux Reservation into five reservations, settling the Lakota in those areas. (In 1980, the US Supreme Court and Congress ordered payment to the Lakota for the illegal seizure of the Black Hills. The case remains unsettled, as the Lakota refuse to accept the money and instead insist on the return of the land.)
On December 29, 1890, the Wounded Knee Massacre occurred on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Commonly cited as the last major armed conflict between the United States and the Lakota Sioux Nation, the massacre resulted in the deaths of at least 146 Sioux, many of them women and children. 31 U.S. soldiers were also killed in the conflict.
During the 1930s, several economic and climatic conditions combined with disastrous results for South Dakota. A lack of rainfall, extremely high temperatures and inappropriate cultivation techniques produced what was known as the Dust Bowl in South Dakota and several other plains states. Fertile topsoil was blown away in massive dust storms, and several harvests were completely ruined. The experiences of the Dust Bowl, coupled with local bank foreclosures and the general economic effects of the Great Depression, resulted in many South Dakotans leaving the state. The population of South Dakota declined by more than 7% between 1930 and 1940.
Economic stability returned with the U.S. entry into World War II in 1941, when demand for the state's agricultural and industrial products grew as the nation mobilized for war. In 1944, the Pick–Sloan Plan was passed as part of the Flood Control Act of 1944 by the U.S. Congress, resulting in the construction of six large dams on the Missouri River, four of which are at least partially located in South Dakota. Flood control, hydroelectricity, and recreational opportunities such as boating and fishing are provided by the dams and their reservoirs.
In recent decades, South Dakota has been transformed from a state dominated by agriculture to one with a more diversified economy. The tourism industry has grown considerably since the completion of the interstate system in the 1960s, with the Black Hills becoming more important as a destination. The financial service industry began to grow in the state as well, with Citibank moving its credit card operations from New York to Sioux Falls in 1981, a move that has since been followed by several other financial companies.
The United States Census Bureau estimates the population of South Dakota was 884,659 on July 1, 2019, an 8.66% increase since the 2010 United States Census, only North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming have fewer residents.
As of 2019, South Dakota had an estimated population of 884,659, an increase of 70,479, or 8.66%, since the year 2010. 7.3% of South Dakota's population was reported as under 5, 24% under 18, and 14.3% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 50.2% of the population. As of the 2000 census, South Dakota ranked fifth-lowest in the nation in population and population density.
Of the people residing in South Dakota, 65.7% were born in South Dakota, 31.4% were born in another U.S. state, 0.6% were born in Puerto Rico, U.S. Island areas, or born abroad to American parent(s), and 2.3% were born in another country.
Race and ethnicity
According to the 2010 Census, the racial composition of the population was:
- 84.7% White (83.8% non-Hispanic white)
- 8.8% American Indian and Alaska Native
- 1.2% African American or black
- 0.9% Asian American
- 0.1% from some other race
- 1.8% of two or more races
German Americans are the largest ancestry group in most parts of the state, especially in East River (east of the Missouri River), although there are also large Scandinavian-descended populations in some counties. South Dakota has the nation's largest population of Hutterites, a communal Anabaptist group which emigrated in 1874 from Europe, primarily from German-speaking areas.
American Indians, largely Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota (Sioux), are predominant in several counties and comprise 20 per cent of the population in West River. The seven large Indian reservations in the state occupy an area much diminished from their former Great Sioux Reservation of West River, which the US government had once allocated to the Sioux tribes. South Dakota has the third-highest proportion of Native Americans of any state, behind Alaska and New Mexico.
Five of the state's counties are wholly within the boundaries of sovereign Indian reservations. Because of the limitations of climate and land, and isolation from urban areas with more employment opportunities, living standards on many South Dakota reservations are often far below the national average; Ziebach County ranked as the poorest county in the nation in 2009. The unemployment rate in Fort Thompson, on the Crow Creek Reservation, is 70%, and 21% of households lack plumbing or basic kitchen appliances. A 1995 study by the U.S. Census Bureau found that 58% of homes on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation did not have a telephone.
In 1995 the legislature passed a law to make English the "common language" of the state. As of the 2000 census, 1.90% of the population aged 5 or older speak German at home, while 1.51% speak Lakota or Dakota, and 1.43% Spanish. As of 2010, 93.46% (692,504) of South Dakota residents aged 5 and older spoke English as their primary language. 6.54% of the population spoke a language other than English. 2.06% (15,292) of the population spoke Spanish, 1.39% (10,282) spoke Dakota, and 1.37% (10,140) spoke German. Other languages spoken included Vietnamese (0.16%), Chinese (0.12%), and Russian (0.10%).
The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2010 were the Roman Catholic Church with 148,883 members; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) with 112,649 members; and the United Methodist Church (UMC) with 36,020 members. (Both the ELCA and UMC are specific denominations within the broader terms 'Lutheran' and 'Methodist', respectively.) The results of a 2001 survey, in which South Dakotans were asked to identify their religion, include:
- Christian (86%)
- Not religious (8%)
- Other religions (3%)
- Refused to answer (2%)
The service industry is the largest economic contributor in South Dakota. This sector includes the retail, finance, and health care industries. Citibank, which was the largest bank holding company in the United States at one time, established national banking operations in South Dakota in 1981 to take advantage of favorable banking regulations. Government spending is another important segment of the state's economy, providing over ten percent of the gross state product. Ellsworth Air Force Base, near Rapid City, is the second-largest single employer in the state.
Agriculture has historically been a key component of the South Dakota economy. Although other industries have expanded rapidly in recent decades, agricultural production is still very important to the state's economy, especially in rural areas. The five most valuable agricultural products in South Dakota are cattle, corn (maize), soybeans, wheat, and hogs. Agriculture-related industries such as meat packing and ethanol production also have a considerable economic impact on the state. South Dakota is the sixth leading ethanol-producing state in the nation.
Another important sector in South Dakota's economy is tourism. Many travel to view the attractions of the state, particularly those in the Black Hills region, such as historic Deadwood, Mount Rushmore, and the nearby state and national parks. One of the largest tourist events in the state is the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The five-day event drew over 739,000 attendees in 2015; significant considering the state has a total population of 850,000. In 2006, tourism provided an estimated 33,000 jobs in the state and contributed over two billion dollars to the economy of South Dakota.
South Dakota has 83,609 miles (134,556 km) of highways, roads, and streets, along with 679 miles (1,093 km) of interstate highways.
South Dakota contains two National Scenic Byways. The Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway is located in the Black Hills, while the Native American Scenic Byway runs along the Missouri River in the north-central part of the state. Other scenic byways include the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway, the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, and the Wildlife Loop Road Scenic Byway.
Railroads have played an important role in South Dakota transportation since the mid-19th century. Some 4,420 miles (7,110 km) of railroad track were built in South Dakota during the late 19th century and early 20th century, but only 1,839 miles (2,960 km) are active. BNSF Railway is currently the largest railroad in South Dakota; the Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern Railroad (formerly the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern) is the state's other major carrier. Rail transportation in the state is confined only to freight, however, as South Dakota is one of the only states lacking Amtrak service.
South Dakota's largest commercial airports in terms of passenger traffic are the Sioux Falls Regional Airport and Rapid City Regional Airport.
South Dakota's culture reflects the state's American Indian, rural, Western, and European roots. A number of annual events celebrating the state's ethnic and historical heritage take place around the state, such as Days of '76 in Deadwood, Czech Days in Tabor, and the annual St. Patrick's Day and Cinco de Mayo festivities in Sioux Falls. The various tribes hold many annual pow wows at their reservations throughout the state, to which non-Native Americans are sometimes invited. Custer State Park holds an annual Buffalo Roundup, in which volunteers on horseback gather the park's herd of around 1,500 bison.
Black Elk (Lakota) was a medicine man and heyokha, whose life spanned the transition to reservations. His accounts of the 19th-century Indian Wars and Ghost Dance movement, and his deep thoughts on personal visions and Native American religion, form the basis of the book Black Elk Speaks, first published in 1932. (Among several editions, a premier annotated edition was published in 2008.) Paul Goble, an award-winning children's book author and illustrator, has been based in the Black Hills since 1977.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose semi-autobiographical books are based on her experiences as a child and young adult on the frontier, is one of South Dakota's best-known writers. She drew from her life growing up on a homestead near De Smet as the basis for five of her novels: By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years. These gained renewed popularity in the United States when Little House on the Prairie was adapted and produced as a television series in the . Wilder's daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who became a well-known writer in her own right, was born near De Smet in 1886.
South Dakota has also produced several notable artists. Harvey Dunn grew up on a homestead near Manchester in the late 19th century. While Dunn worked most of his career as a commercial illustrator, his most famous works showed various scenes of frontier life; he completed these near the end of his career. Oscar Howe (Crow) was born on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation and won fame for his watercolor paintings. Howe was one of the first Native American painters to adopt techniques and style heavily influenced by the mid-20th century abstraction movement, rather than relying on traditional Native American styles. Terry Redlin, originally from Watertown, is an accomplished painter of rural and wildlife scenes. Many of Redlin's works are on display at the Redlin Art Center in Watertown.
Cities and towns
- See also: List of cities in South Dakota
Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota, with a 2010 population of 153,888, and a metropolitan area population of 238,122. The city, founded in 1856, is located in the southeast corner of the state. Retail, finance, and healthcare have assumed greater importance in Sioux Falls, where the economy was originally centered on agri-business and quarrying.
Rapid City, with a 2010 population of 67,956, and a metropolitan area population of 124,766, is the second-largest city in the state. It is located on the eastern edge of the Black Hills, and was founded in 1876. Rapid City's economy is largely based on tourism and defense spending, because of the proximity of many tourist attractions in the Black Hills and Ellsworth Air Force Base.
The next eight largest cities in the state, in order of descending 2010 population, are Aberdeen (26,091), Brookings (22,056), Watertown (21,482), Mitchell (15,254), Yankton (14,454), Pierre (13,646), Huron (12,592), and Vermillion (10,571). Pierre is the state capital, and Brookings and Vermillion are the locations of the state's two largest universities (South Dakota State University and University of South Dakota, respectively). With a population of about 14,000, Pierre is the second smallest state capital in the United States. Of the ten largest cities in the state, only Rapid City is located west of the Missouri River.
Fishing and hunting are both popular outdoor activities in South Dakota. Fishing contributes over $224 million to South Dakota's economy, and hunting contributes over $303 million.
Popular species of game include pheasants, white-tailed deer, mule deer, and turkeys, as well as waterfowl such as Canada geese, snow geese, and mallards. Targets of anglers include walleye in the eastern glacial lakes and Missouri River reservoirs, Chinook salmon in Lake Oahe, and trout in the Black Hills.
Other sports, such as cycling and running, are also popular in the state. In 1991, the state opened the George S. Mickelson Trail, a 109-mile (175 km) rail trail in the Black Hills. Besides being used by cyclists, the trail is also the site of a portion of the annual Mount Rushmore marathon; the marathon's entire course is at an elevation of over 4,000 feet (1,200 m).
Other events in the state include the Tour de Kota, a 478-mile (769 km), six-day cycling event that covers much of eastern and central South Dakota, and the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which draws hundreds of thousands of participants from around the United States.
Some of South Dakota's official state symbols include:
- State bird: Ring-necked pheasant
- State flower: American pasque flower
- State tree: Black Hills spruce
- State nicknames: Mount Rushmore State (official), Coyote state & Sunshine state (both unofficial)
- State motto: "Under God, the people rule"
- State slogan: "Great Faces. Great Places."
- State mineral: Rose quartz
- State insect: Honey bee – Apis mellifera L.
- State animal: Coyote
- State fish: Walleye
- State gemstone: Fairburn agate
- State song: "Hail, South Dakota!"
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