50 Interesting & Fun Facts About South Dakota State

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A road, grass, and lots of trees next to Mount Rushmore on a cloudy day
There are many facts to learn about South Dakota or the "Mount Rushmore State"

Known for its natural beauty and sites like Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota is a stunning Midwestern state. Besides its natural beauty, there are a lot of interesting and fun facts about South Dakota state you probably don't know.

For example, did you know that South Dakota was the 40th state to join the Union? This happened right after the other half of the Dakota Territory joined as North Dakota. Or, how about the fact that it was part of the Louisiana Purchase?

Continue reading for 50 facts about South Dakota that you should know. This information will make you realize that South Dakota might be cooler than you initially thought!

50 South Dakota State Facts

  1. South Dakota Fun Facts
    1. Badlands National Park is 244,000 acres in size
    2. Black Hills National Forest contains 1.2 million acres of land
    3. South Dakota was originally a part of the Dakota Territory
    4. The South Dakota home of Laura Ingalls Wilder is in De Smet
    5. The Orpheum Theater Center is the oldest theater in Sioux Falls
    6. One of the US vice presidents was born in South Dakota
    7. The coyote is the state animal
    8. Its state song is called "Hail South Dakota"
    9. The ring-necked pheasant is the official state bird
    10. The American Pasque flower was made the state flower in 1903
    11. In 1947 the Black Hills Spruce was made the state tree
    12. Milk is the official state drink as of 1986
    13. The honey bee was declared the state insect in 1978
    14. The state fossil is the triceratops
    15. Rose quartz has been the official state mineral since 1966
    16. Fairburn agate is the state gemstone
    17. The geographic center of the United States is in South Dakota
    18. This state has extreme temperatures
    19. The South Dakota state fair is in Huron
    20. Its history dates back at least 17,000 years
  2. Interesting Facts About South Dakota
    1. South Dakota is the 17th-largest state
    2. Millions of people visit Mount Rushmore every year
    3. South Dakota is bordered by six other states
    4. The largest city in this state is Sioux Falls
    5. There are some famous South Dakotans
    6. The South Dakota state capitol is the second smallest in the US
    7. Pierre is the capital of this state
    8. Its population is just under 900,000 people
    9. The lowest point in this state is Big Stone Lake
    10. The highest point in South Dakota is Black Elk Peak
    11. Some Native American tribes still live here
    12. The Oglala Lakota tribe still lives in this state today
    13. The Missouri River runs through South Dakota
    14. Custer State Park is a 71,000-acre wildlife preserve
    15. Outlaw Jesse James supposedly jumped Devil's Gulch
    16. Its nickname is the Mount Rushmore State
    17. The Hotel Alex Johnson opened in Rapid City in 1928
    18. The Crazy Horse Memorial is in the Black Hills
  3. Historical Facts About South Dakota
    1. South Dakota did not have a state flag until 1909
    2. Its state seal and motto were created by Dr. Joseph Ward
    3. South Dakota became the 40th state on November 2, 1889
    4. This state was part of the Louisiana Purchase
    5. The name Dakota comes from a Sioux word
  4. Scary Facts About South Dakota
    1. This state has poisonous spiders
    2. The historic Bullock Hotel opened in 1896 and is haunted
    3. Sica Hollow State Park is a spooky park
    4. Wild Bill Hickok was shot in South Dakota
  5. Weird Facts About South Dakota
    1. Dakota State University is the school's eighth name
    2. Wind Cave National Park is one of the oldest national parks in the US
    3. South Dakota has an official state soil

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South Dakota Facts Video

Check out our highlights video of South Dakota facts.

South Dakota Fun Facts

A view over striped rock hills with some greenery around them on a clear day
South Dakota has many amazing outdoor spaces, like the vast Badlands National Park
Green grass next to striated rock mountains under a blue sky with clouds
Badlands National Park covers an impressive 244,000 acres

Badlands National Park is 244,000 acres in size

Badlands National Park is a 244,000-acre protected parkland in the southwestern part of South Dakota. There are a lot of geological wonders at the national park, and it has one of the richest fossil beds in the world. You will find a lot of wildlife at the national park, including prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, black-footed ferrets, and bison.

Rocky mountains surrounded by green trees on a clear day
Black Hills National Forest stretches across 1.2 million acres of land

Black Hills National Forest contains 1.2 million acres of land

The national forest has a lot of forested hills and mountains that extend into Wyoming. The part in South Dakota is in the western half of the state. The entire forest size is 110 miles by 70 miles. It is named after the Lakota term "Paha Sapa," meaning "the hills that are black."

South Dakota was originally a part of the Dakota Territory

One of the fun South Dakota history facts is that the The Dakota Territory was created to organize the land to the west. Its creation was enacted by Congress on March 2nd, 1861.

The land included North and South Dakota and parts of present-day Montana and Wyoming. The territory's land changed over time but only included North and South Dakota from 1868 to 1889.

Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock.com
A rock that says "Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society" next to a house and garden
You can visit Laura Ingalls Wilder's birthplace in De Smet, South Dakota

The South Dakota home of Laura Ingalls Wilder is in De Smet

The home was built in 1895, and she lived here from 1896 until she died in 1957. She wrote the "Little House on the Prairie" series here. The house became a National Historic Landmark in 1991, and you can tour it today to learn about her life.

The Orpheum Theater Center is the oldest theater in Sioux Falls

It was built in 1913 and originally was opened as a vaudeville theater. The theater became a movie theater in 1927; it slowly deteriorated until it was restored in 2002. Today it is a live-event theater again.

One of the US vice presidents was born in South Dakota

Hubert Humphrey, the 38th Vice President of the United States, was born in Wallace, South Dakota. He was born on May 27th, 1911, and served one term in office with Lyndon B. Johnson. Up till then, no US president had been born in South Dakota.

One of many facts about South Dakota state is that the state animal is the coyote
One of the fun facts about South Dakota state is that the coyote is the state animal

The coyote is the state animal

It was adopted as the South Dakota state animal in 1949 since it is native to South Dakota. Most of the coyotes in the state are found near the Missouri River and in the Black Hills. Native Americans regard the animal with respect and affection; in their stories, the coyote is portrayed as savvy and intelligent.

Its state song is called "Hail South Dakota"

It was composed by Deecort Hammitt and was adopted as the state song in 1943. It has a marching-like beat and should be "sung with spirit."

A ring-necked pheasant standing on the grass
The ring-necked pheasant was introduced to South Dakota in 1908 and is the state bird

The ring-necked pheasant is the official state bird

The South Dakota state bird is native to Asia, but A.E. Copper and E.L. Ebbert introduced the bird to South Dakota in 1908. The pheasant was adopted as the state bird in 1943.

It is easy to spot since it is colorful and is hunted for its meat. This bird is so prevalent in the state that it inspired a South Dakota nickname, the Pheasant Capital of the World.

Purple pasque flowers with yellow centers growing out of the ground
The pretty American Pasque flower became the state flower in 1903

The American Pasque flower was made the state flower in 1903

This vibrant purple flower is also called the May Day flower and was adopted as the South Dakota state flower in 1903. It is common all over the state and blooms every spring.

In 1947 the Black Hills Spruce was made the state tree

It became the official South Dakota state tree in 1947 and is an evergreen. The trees live for around 80 years or more, thanks to their resistance to snow, wind, and ice. Animals don't usually eat the leaves unless they have no other food available.

Milk is the official state drink as of 1986

It became the official South Dakota state drink in 1986 and is an ode to the massive dairy industry in South Dakota. Around 250 million gallons of milk is produced in South Dakota annually, resulting in over $400 million in sales.

The honey bee was declared the state insect in 1978

South Dakota produces a lot of honey every year. The honey bee became the official South Dakota state insect in 1978.

The state fossil is the triceratops

One of the fun facts about South Dakota is that the state has a "state fossil." There is a triceratops skeleton on display at the Museum of Geology at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

Rose quartz has been the official state mineral since 1966

Rose quartz was first discovered in South Dakota near Custer around 1880. It was adopted as the official state mineral in 1966. The pink shade of the rose quartz varies and includes pale pink and red pink.

Fairburn agate is the state gemstone

The Fairburn agate was discovered close to Fairburn, South Dakota, which is where it gets its name. It was adopted as the state gemstone in 1966. Today the gem is found in parts of South Dakota and Nebraska.

The geographic center of the United States is in South Dakota

The geographic center is north of Belle Fourche, South Dakota, which is in west-central South Dakota, close to Wyoming and Montana. It was only when Hawaii and Alaska were added as states that the center shifted.

This state has extreme temperatures

In the winter, temperatures drop well below freezing, and low temperatures are around 0 F in January. In the summer, it is much hotter, with temperatures closer to 90 F. However, there have been temperatures as low as -40°F and as high as 115°F.

An aerial view of a state fair with colorful rides
Started in 1885, the South Dakota State Fair is the largest carnival the state hosts

The South Dakota state fair is in Huron

The state fair is the largest carnival in South Dakota and takes place during Labor Day weekend every year. The first state fair was in 1885, before South Dakota was an official state. It is run by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Its history dates back at least 17,000 years

South Dakota has a rich history that dates back at least 17,000 years from when indigenous peoples first settled in the region. The state is home to several important Native American cultures, including the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Crow.

Throughout its history, South Dakota has been shaped by various forces, including European colonization, westward expansion, and the development of agriculture and industry. They were hunter-gatherers, and they hunted mammoths, sloths, and camels.

Interesting Facts About South Dakota

A field with buffalo grazing on grass-covered hill with trees scattered on it
South Dakota's Custer State Park is home to an array of wildlife, like buffalo

South Dakota is the 17th-largest state

The total area of South Dakota, including land and water, is 77,116 square miles. The land area is 75,811 square miles, and the water area is 1,305 square miles.

The Mount Rushmore monument with the heads of four presidents carved on a mountain
Mount Rushmore is a world-renowned attraction that sees millions of visitors annually

Millions of people visit Mount Rushmore every year

In 2021, over 2.5 million people went to the national memorial to see the rock portraits of the four US presidents. The memorial opened in 1941, and an estimated 393,000 people visited this historic monument when it was first revealed. The visitation numbers decreased in the few years following the opening due to the fallout from World War II.

South Dakota is bordered by six other states

To the north, South Dakota is bordered by North Dakota. To the east is Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska; to the south is Wyoming; and to the west is Montana, thus, making South Dakota pretty landlocked.

sframe/Depositphotos.com
A view over a small town with waterfalls, greenery, and buildings
Sioux Falls is the largest city in the state, with a population of 76,000 people

The largest city in this state is Sioux Falls

To date, the population in Sioux Falls is just over 196,500 people, and the city saw a 2% increase between 2020 and 2021. The second largest city, Rapid City, is much smaller, with only 76,000 people. The third largest city is Aberdeen which has a population of 28,000 people.

There are some famous South Dakotans

One of the most famous is the Indian chief Crazy Horse, who is memorialized as part of the Crazy Horse Memorial. Laura Ingalls Wilder, the "Little House on the Prairie" author, lived in South Dakota when she was a kid. Other famous people from South Dakota include newscaster Tom Brokaw and Dakota Indian chief, Sitting Bull.

jjbooma/Depositphotos.com
A path past a pond with trees on one side and a state capitol building on the other
The town of Pierre is the US' second smallest capital city after Montpelier, Vermont

The South Dakota state capitol is the second smallest in the US

Pierre, the capital of South Dakota, has a population of over 14,000, which is almost twice the population of the smallest US state capital, Montpelier, in Vermont. There are seven cities in South Dakota that are bigger than Pierre.

A white state capitol building with a domed roof next to trees and a flagpole
Pierre is the capital of the state and is home to the South Dakota State Capitol

Pierre is the capital of this state

The city sits on the Missouri River, and it was the temporary capital in 1889 when SD became a state. It was then voted to be the official, permanent state capital in 1904. Pierre is a small city with a population of just over 14,000.

Its population is just under 900,000 people

South Dakota is one of the least populated states in the US . The states with fewer people than South Dakota are Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, and North Dakota. Even Washington, D.C., has fewer people than South Dakota.

The lowest point in this state is Big Stone Lake

The lowest point in the lake is 966 feet above sea level. The lake is on the border of South Dakota and Minnesota. The lake is 12,610 acres large, and it is the water source for the Missouri River.

A small stone castle-like structure with steps leading to it
Black Elk Peak is South Dakota's highest point and has a lookout with stunning views

The highest point in South Dakota is Black Elk Peak

This mountain peak in the Black Hills is 7,242 feet above sea level. It is noteworthy that the peak is the highest point in North America, east of the Rocky Mountains. It is close to Mount Rushmore, just 10 miles northeast of Custer.

Some Native American tribes still live here

There are nine federally recognized reservations, and they are scattered throughout the state. The Sisseton Wahpeton reservation is in the northeast, and the Flandreau Santee is in eastern South Dakota.

The Cheyenne River and Standing Rock reservations are in the north-central part of the state. And the other five are scattered in central South Dakota and the southern parts of the state.

The Oglala Lakota tribe still lives in this state today

The Oglala are a subtribe of the Lakota people, which is made up of a total of seven subtribes. The word Oglala is a Lakota word meaning "to scatter one's own." Their main reservation and headquarters are in the southwest part of South Dakota.

An aerial view over a town next to a river and green fields
The Missouri River is one of the US' longest rivers and runs through South Dakota

The Missouri River runs through South Dakota

It is the second-longest river in the United States. It is a tributary of the Mississippi River, which takes first prize as the longest.

Four donkeys standing on a path next to small grassy hills under a blue sky
Custer State Park is home to many animals, like wild burros

Custer State Park is a 71,000-acre wildlife preserve

The park is a popular place for recreational activities, like hiking, boating, camping, and swimming. The park is home to wildlife such as bison, buffalo, elk, and many bird varieties.

While it is a place to protect the wildlife inhabitants, you can get permission to hunt in the park. This maintains the animal population at manageable numbers. The annual buffalo auction is a highlight around these parts.

Outlaw Jesse James supposedly jumped Devil's Gulch

He was involved in a manhunt after he robbed a bank. The posse chasing him led him to the edge of Devil's Gulch, a massive ravine in Split Rock Creek. He jumped over the 18-foot gulch on his horse to escape his pursuers.

Its nickname is the Mount Rushmore State

The state nickname comes from the renowned Mount Rushmore National Memorial, which is in the state. The famous mountain bears the likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. These four men were crucial in creating and developing the United States as it is today.

Cheri Alguire/Shutterstock.com
A large hotel with brick and Tudor details and a red "Hotel Alex Johnson" sign
Another famous South Dakota hotel is Hotel Alex Johnson in Rapid City

The Hotel Alex Johnson opened in Rapid City in 1928

The hotel is part of the Historic Hotels of America program. The hotel is mentioned in the movie North by Northwest. The stars of the movie also stayed here during some of the filmings.

A rock cliff with the face of a man carved into it under a blue sky
The Crazy Horse Memorial features a stone carving of the Lakota tribe warrior

The Crazy Horse Memorial is in the Black Hills

This famous South Dakota landmark, which sits in the massive Black Hills forest, is a huge sculpture of Crazy Horse, a warrior of the Lakota tribe. He shied away from having his picture taken, so sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski immortalized his likeness on the face of the mountain. The face of the memorial is 87.5 feet tall.

Historical Facts About South Dakota

South Dakota did not have a state flag until 1909

It was designed by Ida Anding, who was a radio operator and stenographer at the Historical Society office. The current state flag differs from the original. The current flag was officially adopted by the state on March 11th, 1963.

A view of a wide city street with medium height buildings and trees on either side
Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is named for the Sioux Tribe of American Indians

Its state seal and motto were created by Dr. Joseph Ward

They were both adopted by the state in 1885 and then modified four years later in the state constitution. The wording on the seal changed from "State of Dakota" to "State of South Dakota" since the state was officially adopted in 1889. The state motto is "Under God the People Rule."

South Dakota became the 40th state on November 2, 1889

It was signed into statehood at the same time as North Dakota. However, the two states both wanted to be the first of the two to become a state.

The statehood declarations were signed simultaneously and shuffled, so no one knows which one was first. South Dakota is officially after North Dakota since it comes second alphabetically.

This state was part of the Louisiana Purchase

The Louisiana Purchase was the deal made between the US and France for part of the land west of the Mississippi River. The deal was made in 1803, and it cost $15 million. South Dakota did not become a state until 86 years later.

The name Dakota comes from a Sioux word

Dakota is a Sioux word that means "allies." Depending on the Native American dialect, the word can also be Lakota or Nakota.

The "south" comes from its location in relation to North Dakota. The two states used to be part of the Dakota Territory until it was split into two states.

Scary Facts About South Dakota

Kenneth Sponsler/Shutterstock.com
An old-fashioned wagon next to a hotel with a "Bullock Hotel" sign
There have been many ghost sightings at the Bullock Hotel

This state has poisonous spiders

Black widows live in the state and are identifiable by the two red triangles on their abdomen. Only the female black widows are poisonous. But who's going to stick around to find out?

Nagel Photography/Shutterstock.com
An old-fashioned brick hotel with a sign that says "Bullock Hotel"
Bullock Hotel has been in Deadwood since 1869 and is supposedly haunted

The historic Bullock Hotel opened in 1896 and is haunted

Seth Bullock, the former sheriff of Deadwood, opened the three-story hotel, formerly a warehouse, in 1896. The Bullock Hotel is the oldest in Deadwood and, as such, is one of the oldest hotels in South Dakota.

In 1976, the hotel was bought and converted into a hardware store before being converted back into a hotel in 1991. There have been reported sightings of ghosts at the hotel, including that of Seth Bullock, even though he did not die here.

Over the years, there have been numerous sightings of Seth Bullock's ghost haunting the hotel halls. Bullock's spirit has never harmed anyone. Guests claim the ghost has only called out to them or touched them. The TV series Ghost Adventures featured the hotel in an episode in 2015.

Sica Hollow State Park is a spooky park

It was, unfortunately, the place where a lot of Native Americans died, many along the park's Trail of the Spirits. The park spans 900 acres and includes an eight-mile hiking trail and places to bike, birdwatch, and snowshoe. It also boasts an eight-mile-long horseback riding trail.

Wild Bill Hickok was shot in South Dakota

He was killed during a poker match in Nuttal & Mann's Saloon by Jack McCall. His gravesite is also in South Dakota. When he was shot, he was holding a pair of aces and eights. Today, many poker players refer to this as the "Dead Man's Hand."

Weird Facts About South Dakota

A dirt path through greenery and trees on a hill under a blue sky with clouds
Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota was one of the first National Parks in the US

Dakota State University is the school's eighth name

The school opened before South Dakota was even a state. It was originally called Madison Normal School, also called Dakota State Normal. The school bore this name from 1881 to 1902, after which it was changed to Madison State Normal School.

Other names throughout its history include Eastern State Normal School, General Beadle State College, and Dakota State College. The school has had its current name of Dakota State University since 1989.

Tami Freed/Shutterstock.com
A sign that says Wind Cave National Park on the grass next to trees and a bison
Established in 1903, Wind Cave National Park was the first National Park with a cave

Wind Cave National Park is one of the oldest national parks in the US

The park is an important part of South Dakota history and was established in 1903. The park covers nearly 34,000 acres.

It was opened by Teddy Roosevelt and contains the first cave to be part of a national park. It is important for being the third longest cave in the US and the seventh longest in the world at 154.2 miles long.

South Dakota has an official state soil

Houdek Soil was introduced as the state soil in 1990, and it is the most common soil in which the state's prairie grass grows. This fertile soil is used in the state's agriculture as suitable for growing corn, sunflowers, grain, and soybeans.

Conclusion

All these interesting South Dakota facts reveal there is so much more to this state than meets the eye. You probably didn't expect it to have a state soil or that its state capitol is the second-smallest in the country!

This list will do the trick if you wanted to have a few trivia facts up your sleeve. But if these facts got you interested in getting to know the state more, consider planning a trip to South Dakota!

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Written by Sarah Hartness

Sarah_Hartness FORMER WRITER Sarah is a Chicago-based travel writer who loves to explore the Midwest and beyond. She has traveled all over the US and Europe. She looks forward to going to Latin America and Asia next.

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