While staying in the Rapid City area, we decided to venture out to the historic town of Deadwood, South Dakota and on the way, drive the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. We are very glad that we did!
A 19-mile drive through deciduous forests, limestone rock formations, and streams, it is a drive not to miss if you are in the area!
Halfway through, we stopped at a picnic area where there were secluded tables, grills and parking spaces. If we did not want to make it to Deadwood before the museums closed, we could have stayed there for hours…
There were also trails that you could take to see the Bridal Veil and Roughlock Falls, but we unfortunately must have driven past them. Lucky for us, there are several good waterfall trails of a similar size in Eastern Pennsylvania and we are sure to encounter more on our trip.
Overall, it was a very easy and beautiful drive. We then drove off to the town of Deadwood, known for its lawlessness for a period in the late nineteenth century and what people would imagine when they thought of the “Old West”.
Still preserving that image to the best of their ability, Deadwood’s downtown area is filled with casinos and saloons, with some museums sprinkled in of course. We parked a little ways from the main street and walked down, almost imagining Wild Bill Hickok wandering the streets.
We took a stroll over to the Adams Museum, where we learned a little more about the history of the town and were able to see artifacts from the city’s history. Settlers came into the region largely as a result of the gold mining going on in the area and the period of lawlessness that it is remembered for was actually for a pretty short stretch of time. But that period did come with many occurrences of prostitution, gambling and whiskey fueled shootouts from miners passing through hoping to make some quick money for their families back home. These were the days that fueled the Wild West portrayal of the real, but not quite what we imagined, likes of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane that stole the imaginations of so many American children and adults alike.
Though many of the original pine wood buildings are no longer standing due to a large fire, some of the buildings appeared to still be pretty old and well maintained.
Some of the old brothel buildings remained as well, though prostitution was apparently still technically legal there until the 1980s. Gambling was made officially legal in 1989, which rejuvenated the struggling town at the time. Now they have dozens of casinos containing slot machines and table games that bring in revenue (which go towards historic preservation causes) and maintain property values.
Finally, we ended our visit with a quick trip to Saloon No. 10, a relocation of the historic saloon where “Wild” Bill Hickok was fatally shot at a card table. The saloon did indeed have slot machines and poker tables in it, and the bar well stocked with whiskey and an old timey feeling.
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