Surprising South Dakota: Get to Know Our Newest State

Get the scoop on South Dakota — from those famous presidential visages to the Badlands and biker nirvana.

Car insurance from Esurance is now available in South Dakota! And, lucky for us, Sioux Falls is home to one of our biggest regional offices. We’re pleased to be here because, as our South Dakotan colleagues know, the Mount Rushmore State is a very cool place.

Giant sculptures

In South Dakota, the phrase “rock face” takes on a whole new meaning. Nowhere else will you see historical figures immortalized on such an epic scale.

Mount Rushmore

When it comes to iconic symbols of America, the “Shrine of Democracy” is hard to beat. The idea came from local historian Doane Robinson, who suggested carving famous Westerners into the Black Hills to promote tourism. But master sculptor Gutzon Borglum decided it should be more national in focus and chose 4 presidents as his subject (Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln). Borglum’s original design showed the presidents from the waist up, but funding ran out after the faces were completed. Though the sculpture is truly massive — Washington’s nose alone is 20 feet long — it will eventually be dwarfed by an even more titanic South Dakotan sculpture …

Crazy Horse Memorial

Located 17 miles from Mount Rushmore, this statue of the celebrated Lakota chief has been in the making for over 60 years and is the largest mountain sculpture currently in progress. Crazy Horse’s head alone is 87 feet high and could fit all of Mount Rushmore’s heads inside it. The entire carving is expected to stretch 563 feet high and 641 feet long when completed.

Geological wonders

If you like your natural landscapes sweeping and spectacular, South Dakota is your kind of state. Here are 2 of the best places to drop your jaw.

Badlands National Park

The Lakota people and French traders both called this region “bad” as in dry, rugged, and tough to travel through. But today, people call it “bad” as in “awesome” with its nearly 244,000 acres of dramatically chiseled spires and gullies, those mixed-grass prairies where buffalo roam, and one of the richest fossil beds on earth.

The Black Hills

Sacred to the Lakota Sioux, the Black Hills are possibly the oldest mountains in America and are chock-full of impressive features: the highest point in the U.S. east of the Rockies (7,242-foot Harney Peak), the third-longest cave in the world (Jewel Cave), and the first cave to be designated a national park (Wind Cave). Wind Cave was discovered when a local cowboy went to investigate a whistling sound and the breeze rushing out of the cave’s small mouth knocked the hat off his head. Along with the wind (which changes direction depending on barometric pressure), this cave also features the world’s largest display of boxwork — a rare, mysterious, honeycomb-shaped type of mineral deposit.

Motorcycle heaven

Sturgis is to bikers what Vegas is to gamblers: pure paradise. Every August, this (usually) small Black Hills town is host to the world’s largest motorcycle rally — a 6-day extravaganza of chrome and leather (and ink). What started as a small weekend race with just 9 participants back in 1938 has grown into a huge event that can attract up to 600,000 people. (If you go, make sure your motorcycle coverage is ready to roll.)

Dazed by maize

As offbeat roadside attractions go, The World’s Only Corn Palace in Mitchell is top of the crop. The building’s vast exterior is decorated with elaborate murals made of corn, grain, and grass as a way to showcase the bounty of South Dakota soil. The murals have a different theme every year and are swapped out just after the annual Corn Palace Festival (which is going on this week!).

Discover more road trip must-sees >

Other South Dakota fun facts

  • Belle Forche, a town located near the western border of the state, is the geographical midpoint of the United States (if you include Hawaii and Alaska).
  • The famous chase scene across the top of Mount Rushmore in the film North by Northwest was actually filmed on a studio lot.
  • The name “Dakota” comes from a Sioux word meaning “friend” or “ally.”

Want the facts about car insurance in South Dakota? We’ve got everything you need to know right here. If you have any tidbits to share about the fortieth state, we’d love to hear them. Leave your comments below or visit our Facebook page.

One Response to “Surprising South Dakota: Get to Know Our Newest State”

  1. Darren Erlandson
    August 26, 2013 #

    We also have the largest single story Shopping mall.

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