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Your guide to Deadwood
Welcome to Deadwood
Founded in 1876, this Black Hills South Dakota town began as a lawless Gold Rush camp populated by miners, muleskinners, gunslingers, and gamblers. All these misfits and miscreants crowded into the narrow, rocky, ponderosa pine-fletched gorge, and eventually packing it with Victorian mansions. Small wonder Deadwood eventually became the first community honored by a National Historic Landmark designation. But after the boom came the bust, and Deadwood nearly decayed into a ghost town. In 1989, officials legalized gambling, however, and plowed money and effort into historic preservation. Today, visitors can see re-enactments of Wild Bill Hickok’s assassination in a sawdust-floored saloon. Lore says he was gunned down playing poker with a fistful of aces and eights, now called the Dead Man’s Hand. Visit his grave and sharp-shooter Calamity Jane’s at Mount Moriah Cemetery.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Deadwood?
The tourism season peaks from late June to late August, when the sun often shines and daytime temperatures are at their warmest. Winter gets considerably brisker: snow can set in from September to May. Seeking a great shoulder-season deal for one of the area’s cabins? Autumn tends to be warmer, drier, and less crowded than spring.
Deadwood’s main draw is history, and its event calendar really leans into that theme, from June’s Wild Bill Days to an early October Wild West Songwriters Festival. Need a break from bustles and handlebar mustaches? Foodies should saddle up for Forks, Corks & Kegs in April (the ticket price includes trolley passes for safe imbibing). And don’t forget mid-September’s Deadwood Jam: two days of free music in Outlaw Square.
What are the top things to do in Deadwood?
In Rapid City, 41 miles southeast of Deadwood, street artists have made a brick-paved back street their own. An ever-changing kaleidoscope blankets the walls, pipes, dumpsters, and even telephone poles there. This “organic community gallery” has been operating since 2003 and occupies the space between Sixth and Seventh, and Main and Saint Joseph streets.
Geographic Center of the Nation Monument
America’s belly button sits a half hour’s drive northwest in Belle Fourche. A 21-foot-diameter granite compass rose marks the spot … kind of. Technically, the middle falls somewhere in a privately owned field 20 miles away. But this monument makes for a better photo op and is right beside a visitor center, as well as the Tri-State Museum.
The Mammoth Site
Some 100 miles south lurks a 26,000-year-old sinkhole that lured Columbian and woolly mammoths — exclusively males — into its maw. Some scientists believe matriarchal herds may have expelled their trouble-makers, who wandered till they got mired in a spring-fed pond and perished. The now-dry pit contains the remains of at least 61 mammoths and 87 other animals, including camels, llamas, and giant short-faced bears. Today visitors can tour the dig, as well as visit the museum, the only late-Ice Age facility of its kind in North America and the world’s largest mammoth research center.