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South Dakota travel guide

About South Dakota

Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but South Dakota is something of a Midwest secret. A land of windswept prairies, pioneer towns, dramatic badlands and four gigantic presidents, the state has much to offer – but it doesn’t like to shout about it.

The Black Hills are South Dakota’s crowning glory, boasting a cluster of national parks, monuments and memorials. The most famous among them is Mount Rushmore National Memorial, where the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln have been blasted and carved out of the mountain.

Equally curious is the Crazy Horse Memorial, which will be the world's largest mountain sculpture when completed. The 22-storey statue features Crazy Horse – a Native American war leader – riding a stallion and pointing into the distance. Work began in 1948 and the finish date is unknown.

If you want to shake off snap-happy tour groups, then trek among stripy canyons, spires and ragged buttes in Badlands National Park, home to bison, bighorn sheep and prairie dogs (alive and well), as well as sabre-toothed cats, ancient rhinos and three-toed horses (dead and fossilised).

Duck beneath the prairie and admire the intricate honeycomb formations in Wind Cave, one of the world’s longest caves. Or get a feel for US-Soviet Cold War tensions at Minuteman Missile, where a flick of a switch could have launched WWIII.

Slicing through the middle of the state, the Missouri River lures hikers, bikers, kayakers and anglers, who hook walleye, pike and perch. South Dakota is a big hunting spot too. Book a table in Sioux Falls, the state’s largest city, and gourmet game is likely to top the menu.

Key facts

Area:

199,730 sq km (77,116 sq miles).

Population:

858,469 (2015).

Population density:

4.3 per sq km.

Capital:

Pierre.