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55 Amazing Facts About South Dakota

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Do you want to know some fun facts about South Dakota? Well, I’ve got you covered! Get to learn everything about the state, right from its history to its geography, in this article. 


Facts About South Dakota

Home to the iconic Mount Rushmore and the spectacular Great Plains, South Dakota’s history and heritage will fill you with immense wanderlust! 

But, don’t worry, you can explore the picturesque state with these facts until you can buy a ticket!

1.  South Dakota Is the Same Size as Many Countries

South Dakota is the 17th largest state in the US with an area of 199,729 square kilometres. Hence, its size is almost equivalent to many countries, including Kyrgyzstan (199,900 square kilometres) and Senegal (196,839 square kilometres).

The state is also larger than some countries, including Tunisia (163,610 square kilometres) and Bulgaria (110,994 square kilometres).

Facts About South Dakota

2. The Mount Rushmore State Is the Nickname of South Dakota 

Here is one of the popular facts about South Dakota.

South Dakota is known as “The Mount Rushmore State”, as it is home to the legendary Mount Rushmore National Memorial! It features the sculpted faces of four US presidents – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

Mount Rushmore is located in the Black Hills region of western South Dakota, near the town of Keystone. The monument received more than 2.44 million visitors in 2022!

3. Pierre Is the Capital of South Dakota

Let’s talk about some facts about South Dakota, related to its big cities.

Pierre, located in South Dakota, became the state’s capital when it separated from North Dakota on November 2, 1889. Moreover, the city was chosen as the capital because of its central location.

Today, it covers an area of 33.86 square kilometres and has a population of 13,969.  

4. Weather in South Dakota Is Extreme

Here are some weather-related facts about South Dakota.

South Dakota is ranked fifth for the most extreme weather in the US, especially the summers. 

The highest-recorded temperature of the state is 120 degrees Fahrenheit, while the lowest is -58 degrees Fahrenheit. 

5. South Dakota Has a Very Small Population

Despite having a huge land area, South Dakota is one of the states with a tiny population.

In 2022, the state had a population of 909,824. In the list of the most populated states, South Dakota ranks 46th amongst 50 other states.

6. The Pasque Flower Is the State Flower of South Dakota

South Dakota has several flower species, but the Pasque flower was declared the official state flower of South Dakota in 1903.

The Pasque flower is a distinctive wildflower, known for its beautiful purplish-blue petals and a yellow centre. Additionally, the flower also symbolises the winter’s end, as it blooms between late March and early June.

Facts About South Dakota

7. There are Over 63 State Parks in South Dakota!

These are some quick facts about South Dakota for those who love parks.

South Dakota has over 63 state parks for preserving natural landscapes and for various recreational options! 

Custer State Park is one of the largest and most famous state parks because of its stunning prairie grasslands and mountain landscapes. It is located in the Black Hills and is spread across a vast area of 287 square kilometres.

You can also check out the Palisades State Park for its unique pink quartzite rock formations. Other magnificent state parks include Pierson Ranch State Park and Badlands State Park.

8. Milk Is the State Drink of South Dakota

Here is one of the random facts about South Dakota.

Milk is the top choice for state drinks for many US states. Around 21 states out of 31 US states with a state drink have chosen milk, including South Dakota.

South Dakota started considering milk as the state’s official drink in 1986. This is mainly because milk production has been a significant part of South Dakota’s agricultural and dairy industry.

Facts About South Dakota

9. Rose Quartz Is the State Mineral of South Dakota

South Dakota has many precious jewels, including Rose Quartz. Therefore, Rose Quartz became the official state mineral of South Dakota in 1966. It is an elegant pink or rosy-red mineral, known for its marvellous shades.

Rose Quartz is found in many locations around South Dakota, like the Black Hills. Some specific regions for rose quartz include areas near Custer State Park and Keystone in South Dakota.

10. Sioux Falls Is the Biggest City in South Dakota

Pierre might be the capital of South Dakota, but it isn’t the largest city.

Sioux Falls, in the Minnehaha county of southeastern South Dakota, is the biggest city in South Dakota. It has a population of 202,078 residents as of 2022. 

Despite being the largest city in the state, it is the 121st-most populous city in the US.

11. South Dakota is Known for Sunflower Production

I’ve always loved sunflowers, so this was one of my favourite facts about South Dakota!

South Dakota is known as the top producer of sunflowers in the US. In 2022, the state produced more than 1.3 billion pounds of sunflowers. These flowers are either used to make sunflower oil or used for food markets.

The irony is that South Dakota produces more sunflowers than the “Sunflower State”, Kansas.

Facts About South Dakota

12. A Famous Surgeon Lived in South Dakota

These facts about South Dakota are quite impressive.

Alton Ochsner, a skilled surgeon, was born in Kendall, South Dakota, in 1896. 

In the late 1930s, Alton conducted groundbreaking research. It established a clear link between smoking (or tobacco) and the development of lung cancer!

13. Sioux Indian Chief Crazy Horse Lived in South Dakota

These facts about South Dakota might make you feel a little confused.

Well, Crazy Horse was an important leader of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe. He played a huge role in the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, where the Native American tribes defeated the US forces.

It is believed that Crazy Horse lived in the present-day Rapid City in South Dakota. However, he died in Fort Robinson, Nebraska. 

14. Crazy Horse Memorial Is Not Done Yet!

Here is one of the continuation facts about South Dakota for Crazy Horse. 

The Crazy Horse Memorial was being built in the Black Hills, in Custer County, to celebrate and honour the life of Crazy Horse. 

The surprising fact is that its construction started in 1948. But, even after more than 70 years, the memorial is still incomplete! Even today, nobody knows when its construction will be complete. 

15. Mining Is Important in South Dakota

The mining industry of South Dakota is a significant one, as the state is known to be the largest mica producer in the US. 

There’s also only one remaining gold mine in South Dakota, the Wharf Resources, located near Lead. Currently, it has over 200 employees, including the miners. 

16. South Dakota’s Number One Industry Is Agriculture

Although mining is an integral part of South Dakota, agriculture is always going to be the leading industry. 

There are over 115,000 residents of South Dakota involved in agriculture-related jobs. The industry also provides around $645 million as state tax revenues!

Some of the major crops include soybeans, corn, alfalfa, sunflowers, and wheat

17. South Dakota Has Some Weird Laws

These are some unusual facts about South Dakota and its state rules!

For instance, one of the rules states that you cannot sleep in a cheese factory, whereas the other is that horses cannot enter a fountain without pants. 

There’s also one law that states that each hotel room should have two twin beds in the room. 

18. The Missouri River Runs Through South Dakota

The Missouri River is the largest in the entire US with a length of 3,768 kilometres

Now, it passes through the central region of South Dakota, including cities like Pierre, Sioux City, and Chamberlain

As the river passes through the centre, it divides the state into eastern and western parts. 

19. South Dakota Was Part of the Louisiana Purchase

Let’s dig into some past facts about South Dakota. 

The Louisiana Purchase was a monumental part of US history. It allowed the US to purchase land from the French in 1803. 

The Louisiana Purchase involved many present US states like Louisiana, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Montana, and many more. 

20. Wind Cave Is One of the Oldest National Parks in the US

South Dakota has around six national parks. The Wind Cave National Park located in the southwestern part of South Dakota, is one of the oldest national parks.

Wind Cave National Park was established as a national park in the US on January 9, 1903, by President Theodore Roosevelt. It was the US’ sixth national park.

The funny thing is that it even predates the National Park Service, which was created in 1916!

If you’re a foodie, these facts about South Dakota are for you!

Chislic is a bite-sized piece of seasoned and deep-fried meat. It is often made with beef or lamb and is a huge part of South Dakotan culture. 

The dish actually has a German-Russian history, as it was introduced by John Hoellwarth, a German-Russian immigrant, in the 1870s.

22. South Dakota is a Part of the Great Plains

There are 10 US states that are a part of the Great Plains. These include North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, and many more. 

The western two-thirds of South Dakota primarily consists of the Great Plains region. Hence, you’ll get to see vast grasslands and rolling hills with a height between 400 and 600 feet, known as Buttes.

23. Black Elk Peak Is South Dakota’s Highest Point

There are many mountains in South Dakota. Yet, the Black Elk Peak, located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, has the state’s and the Midwestern US’ highest point.

Black Elk Peak has a height of 2,923 feet above sea level. However, it is still pretty small compared to other peaks like Denali in Alaska (20,310 feet).

24. South Dakota Has Many NBA Players

If you love the NBA, you have to know these facts about South Dakota!

Over the years, South Dakota has had many famous NBA players, like Becky Hammon (WNBA player and NBA coach), Adam Vinatieri (NFL kicker), Chad Greenway (NFL linebacker), and Mike Miller (NBA player). 

25. Dakota Means Friendly

Let’s get into the naming-related facts about South Dakota.

The word “Dakota” is taken from the Dakota Sioux Native American tribe. It is a Sioux Indian word, which means “friend” or “friendly”.

26. South Dakota Has Many Species of Butterflies

If you love butterflies, these facts about South Dakota will make you want to visit the state.

There are over 14,500 butterfly species in the world. Out of these, South Dakota has more than 175 species!

You can keep an eye out for some of the common butterfly varieties, like Red Admiral (most common), Painted Lady, Viceroy, Monarch, and Mourning Cloak.

Facts About South Dakota

27. Until 2001 South Dakota Was One of the Top Producers of Gold in the US

South Dakota is yet another golden state in the US. It has a rich history of gold mining, especially during the late 19th and early 20th centuries!

The Black Hills region in western South Dakota had abundant gold deposits. Some important gold mining towns, like Deadwood and Lead, were founded during this period.

The Homestake Mine in Lead, South Dakota had the largest single gold deposit in the entire Western Hemisphere! It went on to produce around 40 million ounces of gold and only closed in 2001.

28. Laura Ingalls Wilder Lived in South Dakota

Here’s one of the facts about South Dakota for those who love books.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, the American author, well-known for her “Little House” series of books lived in De Smet, South Dakota, between 1879 and 1894.

The “Little Town on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls is based on De Smet. Today, you’ll also find many buildings referenced in her stories, like the Surveyor’s house.

29. South Dakota Has Six Neighbouring States

South Dakota is a landlocked state, as it is bordered by six states. 

You’ll find North Dakota (north), Minnesota (east), Iowa (southeast), Nebraska (south), Wyoming (west), and Montana (northwest). Hence, it is a landlocked state with no coastline. 

30. South Dakota Has a Massive Shoreline

You may feel confused right now. After all, I just mentioned that South Dakota is a landlocked state. 

Well, it turns out that the state has a huge shoreline, due to the presence of breathtaking rivers and glacial lakes. For instance, Lake Oahe alone has a length of 372 kilometres! 

The Missouri River, the longest river in the US, that flows through South Dakota has many tiny tributaries that add up to its shoreline.

31. Badlands National Park Has Many Fossils

Are you into palaeontology? Then, these facts about South Dakota are worth knowing.

Badlands National Park is located in southwestern South Dakota and is spread across a vast expanse of 982 square kilometres

The park is popular for its rich fossil remains. For instance, you can find fossils of animals such as bison, oreodonts, entelodonts, rabbits, pigs, and rhinoceros, from the late Cretaceous, Eocene, and Oligocene epochs.

Note that the park doesn’t have any dinosaur fossils

32. Tourism Is Essential to South Dakota’s Economy

South Dakota is home to the world-famous Mount Rushmore. Hence, it doesn’t come as a surprise that tourism is a major part of the state.

In 2022, visitors spent over 4.7 billion dollars, which contributed to around $7.6 billion to the state’s economy. 

Tourism in South Dakota also provided 56,800 jobs in 2022. Later, it generated $361 billion in state and local tax revenues!

Facts About South Dakota

33. There Is a Mashed Potato Wrestling Contest in South Dakota

Here’s one of the quirkiest facts about South Dakota!

Clark, a city in South Dakota, has a high production of potatoes. Therefore, the city organises a festival in honour of this vegetable. A special event that takes place in this festival is the potato wrestling contest.

As the name suggests, the wrestlers fight against each other in a ring that’s filled with mashed potatoes. In fact, Steve ‘O’Gratin’ Barone has a world record for winning the most number of potato wrestling championships (around 4)!

34. The Coyote Is the State Animal of South Dakota

In 1949, the South Dakota Legislature chose the coyote as the state animal. However, one legislator suggested the bull!

Coyotes are also called prairie wolves in South Dakota. They’re found in abundance in the Black Hills, near the bank of the Missouri River.

The state also had a beloved coyote, Tootsie the Coyote, back in the 1940s.

35. South Dakota Has the Geographic Center of the Nation

Here is one of the most intriguing facts about South Dakota!

The Geographic Center of the Nation Monument, in Belle Fourche of Butte County (western South Dakota), is considered the geographic centre of the US.

You can determine the geographic centre by finding the point where a landmass of the US (including Alaska and Hawaii) can balance perfectly on a pinhead. If you do that, you’ll find the point near Belle Fourche!

The coordinates of the Geographic Center of the Nation Monument are around 44°58′ N latitude and 103°46′ W longitude.

36. North and South Dakota Were One Territory

This is one of the important facts about South Dakota.

Initially, North and South Dakota were part of the Dakota Territory, established on March 2, 1861. 

However, the region soon faced problems due to a rising population and separate trade routes. Hence, on February 22, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison officially divided the Dakota Territory into North and South Dakota.

North Dakota became the 39th state and South Dakota became the 40th state.

37. Vice President Hubert Humphrey Was Born in South Dakota

Vice President Hubert Humphrey, the 38th Vice President of the US, was under President Lyndon B. Johnson between 1965 and 1969. 

Did you know that he was born on May 27, 1911, in Wallace, located in Codington County, South Dakota? He also finished his early schooling in Doland, South Dakota.

Today, Hubert Humphrey is widely known for being a strong advocate for civil rights. He also wanted to end racial segregation in the US.

38. The Ring-Necked Pheasant Is the State Bird of South Dakota

South Dakota is a paradise for birdwatchers, as there are more than 440 bird species found here. 

The native species include Common Starling, House Finch, Song Sparrow, Rock Wren, and many more. 

Out of these, the Ring-Necked Pheasant became the official state bird of South Dakota on February 13, 1943

The irony behind these birds is that they weren’t found naturally in the region. Instead, they were brought to South Dakota in 1908, and introduced near Doland in Spink County.

Facts About South Dakota

39. South Dakota Has the World’s Only Corn Palace

Let’s discuss some unique facts about South Dakota.

The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, is advertised as “The World’s Only Corn Palace”! 

Opened in 1921, the palace is popular for its exterior walls decorated with intricate murals made entirely from corn. These corns are replaced every year, due to which many costs are incurred.

Today, it costs at least $130,000 for the palace’s maintenance and operations.

40. South Dakota Has a State Song

Do you love songs? Well, you need to know these facts about South Dakota!

South Dakota’s state song, “Hail, South Dakota!“, was adopted as the state song on February 12, 1943. The song was written by DeeCort Hammitt.

It became the state’s official song after it won a nationwide contest consisting of 158 songs. Most people voted it as their favourite.

41. The Honeybee Is the State Insect of South Dakota

Let’s talk about the fun facts about South Dakota and its state insect.

The honeybee was declared the state insect of South Dakota on March 1, 1978. The reason is that South Dakota is well-known for its honey production. 

Hence, the state recognized the honeybee as the state insect for its contributions towards the local economy and agriculture.

These facts about South Dakota are best for those planning to visit the state.

If you wish to explore the lively culture of South Dakota, you can visit the South Dakota State Fair in Huron

This fair takes place annually for five days during the Labour Day weekend. You can get to see many things, such as livestock exhibitions and agricultural produce. 

You’ll also find carnival rides and many entertainment activities at the fair, along with delicious food stalls!

43. South Dakota Has Poisonous Spiders

If you are scared of spiders, these facts about South Dakota aren’t for you!

There are many spider species in South Dakota. Out of these, six species are unique to the region. These are Arctosa rubicunda, Micrathena sagittata, Argiope aurantia, Trochosa terricola, and Tegenaria domestica.

The two dangerous spiders that you’ll find in South Dakota are brown recluse (Latrodectus mactans) and western black widow (Loxosceles reclusa). You may require urgent medical attention if any of these two spiders bite you.

44. People Lived in South Dakota 13,000 Years Ago

It is fascinating to imagine that present-day South Dakota was once inhabited by humans almost 13,000 – 17,000 years ago!

Archaeologists have found the remains of the extinct animals that Clovis, the ancestors of the Native Americans, hunted. These include mastodons, mammoths, horses, and American camels.

45. Nine Native American Tribes Still Reside in South Dakota

You’ll find Native American tribes still residing in South Dakota. There are nine officially recognized tribes living in the area. 

These include – Oglala Sioux, Standing Rock Sioux, Rosebud Sioux, Cheyenne River Sioux, Crow Creek Sioux, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, Flandreau Santee Sioux, Lower Brule Sioux, Yankton Sioux.

South Dakota also has a high population of Native Americans compared to other states. They make up about 8.57% of the state’s total population.

46. The Vérendrye Brothers Were the First Europeans in South Dakota

Here are a few historical facts about South Dakota.

The Vérendrye brothers, François and Pierre, were the first Europeans to explore present-day South Dakota in the early 18th century or more than 250 years ago

During their expeditions between 1742 and 1743, they crossed the northern Great Plains and explored the Rocky Mountains.

47. South Dakota’s Lowest Point Is Big Stone Lake

Let’s talk about some geography-related facts about South Dakota. 

Big Stone Lake, the source of the Mississippi River, is the lowest point in the whole state. 

Located between the border of South Dakota and Minnesota, the lake’s lowest point is estimated to be around 965 feet above sea level. It is spread across an area of 51 square kilometres.

48. South Dakota’s Motto Is “Under God the People Rule”

If you look at South Dakota’s flag, you’ll find that it also contains the official motto – “Under God the People Rule”.

The unique thing about South Dakota is that out of 21 English state mottos, it is one of the four state mottos related to God or religion.

Reverend Joseph Ward, the founder of Yankton College, suggested the motto. Later, it was adopted as the official one in the 1885 constitution.

49. South Dakota Has a Scary Park 

Here are some spooky facts about South Dakota.

Sica Hollow State Park is located in Sisseton, Roberts County, South Dakota. Several people think of it as a scary place. In fact, the word “Sica” is a Dakota word for “bad” or “evil”.

The park is known to have red-coloured water, and many early tribes used to think of it as blood! In the 1970s, many people also disappeared from the park. Hence, the locals believe that a monster or beast is living in the dense forests of the park.

50. Dakota State University Had a Lot of Other Names

Let’s get into some fun facts about South Dakota.

One of the main universities, Dakota State University, has undergone many changes in its name. Initially, it was established as the Madison Normal School in 1881. Then, it was Madison State Normal School in 1902.

In 1921, its name was changed to Eastern State Normal School due to its location in the eastern part of South Dakota, and General Beadle State Teachers College in 1947.

The ‘Dakota State College’ name came into existence in 1969, which was again changed to Dakota State University in 1989.

The university certainly went through a slight identity crisis!

51. Houdek Loam Is the State Soil of South Dakota

Did you know that Houdek Loam was officially considered the state soil of South Dakota on March 19, 1990? 

It is because this fertile soil is of immense importance to the state’s agriculture industry.

52. South Dakota Has a Beautiful Flag

Here are some flag-related facts about South Dakota.

Just like other states, it also has a sky-blue flag. You can find three things on it – the sun, the inscription, and the state seal. The sun represents the sunny weather of the state.

The state seal consists of a river with a steamboat on it, a mine, a furnace, a farmer, and cattle. There are many hills depicted too. You can also find the state’s motto on it, as discussed above. 

Surrounding the seal you’ll find the words “South Dakota” and “The Mount Rushmore State.” 

It is beautiful how a single seal summarised almost everything about the state!

53. Triceratops Is the State Fossil of South Dakota

Did you know that South Dakota also has a state fossil?

Triceratops, a honed dinosaur from the Cretaceous period, was declared South Dakota’s state fossil on March 11, 1988, by Governor George S. Mickelson.

The reason behind this is that South Dakota has many fossils of Triceratops. They are found in various locations throughout South Dakota. However, the most significant area is the Hell Creek Formation, which is a part of northeastern South Dakota.

You can check out the Triceratops fossil at the Museum of Geology, in Rapid City South Dakota.

54. Fairburn Agate Is the State Gemstone of South Dakota

Here are some precious facts about South Dakota. 

The state has several gemstones, like turquoise, tourmaline, opal, jade, amethyst, jasper, garnet, and many more. 

You’ll also find the Fairburn Agate stone in South Dakota, which is also the state’s official gemstone. The Fairburn area near the French Creek Campground in the Black Hills is known for this gemstone.

Fairburn Agate is famous for its unique and vibrant combinations of colours, like reds, oranges, yellows, and whites, that are arranged in swirls and bands.

55. There Are 4 Cows for Every Human in South Dakota

Let’s talk about some shocking facts about South Dakota.

South Dakota is the number one state that has more cattle compared to humans! According to the official statistics, there are 844,887 people and 3.7 million cattle. Hence, the ratio between cattle and humans is 4.32. 

So, you can say that there are four cows for every human in South Dakota! Other states like Nebraska, Montana, and North Dakota also have more cattle than humans.

Further Reading – Fun Facts About South Dakota

South Dakota may be one of the least populated states in the US. Still, I hope that these facts about South Dakota helped you understand more about the region and its significance! 

You can also read fun facts about other US cities and states on my blog:

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