37 Important Facts About South Dakota

Last updated on October 7th, 2022

South Dakota is the 46th most populous and the 17th most extensive of the 50 states of the United States. It is in the Midwestern region of the United States. The state attained statehood on November 2, 1889, becoming the 40th State to join the union. Its six bordering states are Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming. See the complete list of the 50 states and their borders here. South Dakota (nicknamed: Coyote State, Land of Infinite Variety, Mount Rushmore State, Sunshine State) has 66 counties. The state’s capital is Pierre.

Facts about South Dakota

1. Mount Rushmore – the Black Hills where the sculptures of ex U.S. presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt are made. The four faces at the hill represent four stages of America’s history: Washington, the birth of the nation; Jefferson, the growth; Lincoln, the preservation; and Roosevelt, the development.

2. It is estimated that a total of 450,000 tons of rock was removed in order to create the enormous carved heads. More than 2 million people visit Mount Rushmore every year, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations of the U.S.

3. The mountain was named for the New York lawyer Charles E. Rushmore. The lawyer traveled to the Black Hills in 1884 to inspect mining claims in the region.[1]

4. Did you know that the original design for Mount Rushmore National Memorial included the four presidents from head to waist? However, after the death of the sculptor Gutzon Borglum, and due to World War II, the nation had to limit the funding for the project.

South Dakota (in red) on the map with neighboring states.

5. Born in Pine Ridge, Oglala Lakota, South Dakota, in 1938, William Mervin, was the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in 10,000 m race. He won the gold medal at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo.[2]

6. There is no evidence suggesting which state was incorporated first because president Benjamin Harrison shuffled the bills and signed one at random, with the order unrecorded. North Dakota is traditionally listed first.

7. Did you know that the corn palace in Mitchell is redecorated with corn and multi colored grain murals every fall? Built in 1892, it is the world’s only corn palace and attracts more than half a million visitors each year.[4]

8. SD is a leading gold producer.[5]

9. The Homestake Mine was the longest gold producing mine in the history of the U.S. Until 2002, when the mine was closed, it was the largest and the deepest gold mine in North America.[6]

10. On November 2, 1889, South Dakota became a state along with North Dakota. And it was never disclosed which state was named first.[7]

South Dakota on the map

11. South Dakota has one of the world’s largest, most complete fossil of T. rex discovered. It is named Sue, after the fossil hunter, Sue Hendrickson, who found it in 1990.[8] 

12. The 1909 flag of the state featured the then nickname of the state the “Sunshine State.” The nickname was adopted by Florida as well. However, in 1992, the state adopted a new nickname: the “Rushmore State.”

13. Five U.S. state capitals are still not served by the interstate highway system and Pierre, SD is one of them. The other four are: Juneau, AK; Dover, DE; Jefferson City, MO; and Carson City, NV.[9]

14. More than 175 different butterfly species live in SD.[10]

15. South Dakota is home to the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota tribes, which together make up the Sioux Nation.[11]

16. City of presidents – on the streets of Rapid City you can find a bronze statue of each U.S. president. The project started in 2000 and is privately funded. The life sized bronze president statues were built to honor the legacy of the American presidency.[12]

17. South Dakota has more shoreline than the entire state of Florida. This is mainly because of the fact that the state has many rivers and water bodies including rivers like Missouri, Cheyenne, James, Grande, Moreau etc. Visit this link to learn more about the lakes, rivers and water resources in the state.

18. The state also has the highest point in the state east of the Rocky Mountains – Black Elk Peak in the Black Hills, 7,242 feet.

19. South Dakota leads the nation in production of bison and pheasants. Agriculture is its top industry, generating one-third of its overall economic activity.

20. The Crazy Horse Memorial is another piece of magnificent art carved in rock. The memorial is not yet completed even after more than 70 years of carving. It is estimated that once it gets completed, it will be 563 feet high and 641 feet long.

21. The Crazy Horse Memorial depicts a Native American warrior with long hair sitting on horseback. At the time of its completion, if there is not any other memorial to compete, it will be the world’s largest memorial; however, it is also one of the slowest to build.

22. Korczak Ziolkowski who originally started the sculpting process of the memorial is no more. He thought it would take 30 years to finish the task and today his family is looking after the job that he left undone. The original sculptor’s wish was to go slow with the carving so that it is carved exactly as needed.

23. The Missouri River bisects the state into two halves that are geographically and socially distinct. These halves are know to residents as “Eat River” and “West River.” 

24. The Missouri River is the largest and longest river in the state.

25. The eastern region of the state due to its fertile soil helps in the production of a variety of crops and also contains majority of the state’s population.

26. The western region is heavily dependent on tourism and defense activity for its economy. Ranching is also a predominant agricultural activity in the west of the state. 

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