The town Belle Fourche (pronounced bell foo-sh) is the geographic center of the United States. In 1959 statehood for Alaska shifted the title northwest, causing much distress in Kansas. Apparently all the water between California and Hawaii (also given statehood) was also discounted because then the center of the nation would be west of Washington State in the Pacific Ocean, and obviously, that would supply a geographic oddity that couldn’t be visited by tourists. The actual location is 20 miles north of Belle Fourche on private land.
In 1959 a roadside marker was created on leased land close to the actual center point, but it didn’t seem to be valuable enough to continue the lease, because even though it was more “correct” profit from tourists couldn’t be created due to the lack of anything other than a view. (Last week we visited Wall, South Dakota, home of Wall Drugs which is the king of tacky tourist attractions and we now understand tourist attractions much better.) Belle Fourche is the “city” nearest to the actual geographic center of the country (population 6000) and established the monument in the middle of town, along with an area museum/visitors center, city park and original log cabin from 1879. Unlike Wall Drugs, the attraction is not over the top tacky, profits from the attraction are therefore marginal.
Belle Fourche is about 20 miles north of Spearfish which is about 40 miles northwest of Rapid City.
I go into these details because the campsite we have is possibly the best – ever. Our campsite is right on the water at Belle Fourche Reservoir. We launched our kayaks right from our campsite for a morning paddle. Other unoccupied campsites are about 50 yards on each side of us. Currently, the nearest neighbor is 400 yards away. We have a gentle breeze and you can see the northern edge of the Black Hills about 30 miles to the west. This is a location at the western edge of the prairie and not in the Black Hills. So far we have found prairie camping to be surprisingly enjoyable.
From here we also made a day trip to another geologic oddity – Devils Tower. This spire of crystallized granite, in nearby Wyoming, is in my best description mesmerizing. It is just to the west of the Black Hills National Forest in Wyoming and stands massively above every other hill for miles around.
On Sunday we break our own rules of driving less than 100 miles and push further north to Medora North Dakota and Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Teddy Roosevelt made Devils Tower the first national monument because he was wanted to protect it from “commercial exploitation.” Fact is, however, William Rogers (not the humorist) had already done that in a well-publicized “first accent” July 4, 1893. During his climb, his wife sold trinkets and refreshments at a booth. After arriving at the top, William Rogers and Willard raised the flag on a pre-positioned flag pole — indicating that someone was at the top before him.
The best that can be said is that William Rogers is the first recorded ascent of Devils Tower. This climb, however, was no small feat in that the vertical section was nearly 900 feet. Two years later, his wife made the climb; making her the first woman climbs Devils Tower. Both climbs were made by wedging wooden staves into the rock creating a ladder. Some of the ladder parts can still be seen, but the park service has removed most of the lower section to discourage tourists from getting the idea that a 120-year-old a ladder might be a good idea.
We also had a good time in Rapid City after a couple of weeks in the backcountry we need a stop in larger towns to get groceries and similar items. We got to see some attractions and Aron, a good friend from San Diego showed us around town, Deadwood, and Sturgis.
Thanks to all of you for your interest in our trip. Scott and Tami
Here is a link to the google map for the area.
Link to our 2019 Route.
Link to our route Colorado to Minot North Dakota
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