7 Nicknames for South Dakota That Will Surprise You

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Buffalo grazing on yellow grass with trees and hills behind them
South Dakota has numerous nicknames based on its landmarks, wildlife, and more

South Dakota is one of the most beautiful and geographically diverse states in the US. It notably has a reputation for being an outdoor paradise. From the rolling mountains and woodlands of the Black Hills National Forest to the iconic Mount Rushmore, there is something for everybody to enjoy.

Due to its uniqueness, it's somewhat unsurprising that this state goes by many alternate names. Popular nicknames for South Dakota include those relating to its landscapes, history, and iconic landmarks. To discover all of the monikers for the region and the interesting stories behind them, continue reading!

7 South Dakota Nicknames

Due to the state animal, Coyote State became one of the nicknames for South Dakota
Coyote State is one of the nicknames for South Dakota that's based on its wildlife

Coyote State

In 1949, South Dakota adopted the Coyote as its official state animal. This animal is also honored in the Coyote State nickname. Coyotes were chosen as an emblem because they have a long history in the state.

It's said that the early settlers would hear coyotes howling out on the prairie and amongst the Black Hills spruce at nighttime. Native Americans from the region also mentioned coyotes in various tales, generally highlighting the animal as clever and savvy.

However, this creature isn't a thing of the past. Vast numbers of coyotes still live within South Dakota, with recent counts suggesting there are 70,000 to 75,000 throughout the state. Therefore, the Coyote State moniker remains relevant and is recognized by many locals. The University of South Dakota sports teams are even named the Coyotes, adding to the name's relevance.

Pheasant Capital of the World

Another nickname for South Dakota related to the region's wildlife is the Pheasant Capital of the World. This colorful creature, specifically, the ring-necked pheasant, is the state bird. While in the area, you'll likely spot pheasants in fields as you hike or otherwise enjoy the outdoors.

Notably, there are around seven million pheasants in South Dakota! While the bird is native to Asia, South Dakota now has one of the largest populations of any region in the world, giving credence to the Pheasant Capital of the World nickname.

White snow next to snow-covered mountains under a bright blue sky with white clouds
Winter snowstorms in South Dakota led to the Blizzard State moniker

Blizzard State

The Great Plains region, which includes South Dakota, is informally known as 'Blizzard Alley' due to its severe winter storms. Winters can be harsh and unforgiving. It's not uncommon for snowstorms to affect day-to-day life for many South Dakota residents during the colder months.

Unfortunately, the state even has a history of storms that cause fatalities. It's not the most glamorous of names, but the Blizzard State is an appropriate one come the depths of winter when the snowstorms are raging.

The Land of Plenty

South Dakota is additionally known as the Land of Plenty. This alternate name came about for a few reasons. One of these reasons is that the state has a large area but a low population.

While some of the land isn't habitable, much of it is. This means that people living in South Dakota have plenty of room compared to those in more densely populated states. Residents here are more likely to live in houses than smaller apartments, and property often comes with more land than in other areas.

Secondly, natural resources are plentiful in the state. The region leads the country in mica production and has deposits of other minerals, from gold to gypsum and crushed stone. Crude oil deposits are high as well, with the state producing between one and two million barrels per year.

These vast resources all contribute to the much-loved Land of Plenty nickname. You'll likely see this name sported on various kinds of merchandise and souvenirs relating to the state.

A grassy landscape in front of a rocky terrain on a sunny day
South Dakota has diverse ecosystems and habitats, including prairies and mountains

The Land of Infinite Variety

South Dakota is known for its range of stunning landscapes, numerous landmarks and attractions, and diverse cultural heritage. It also has a varied climate, from extremely harsh winters to beautiful summers. Due to this, the Land of Infinite Variety moniker was created.

However, this isn't just a South Dakota nickname. The phrase also features in the Official Pledge to the State Flag, making it very important to the identity of South Dakota and its residents.

Sunshine State

Almost everyone knows that Florida goes by the Sunshine State nickname. A lesser-known yet interesting South Dakota fact is that the state went by this moniker before Florida.

The Sunshine State name was officially adopted by Florida in 1970. However, a South Dakota state flag designed in 1909 featured the phrase. This remained the state flag of South Dakota until 1992 when Sunshine State was replaced with Mount Rushmore State.

Despite the removal of the slogan, the state flag still features a large sun icon, acting as a nod to the past nickname. The Official Pledge to the State Flag also includes "land of sunshine" as part of the message. Additionally, many residents still call South Dakota the Sunshine State, and they'll definitely say that they created the name before Florida!

A rocky mountain with the faces of four men carved near the top under a blue sky
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota's most famous landmark, inspired the state's nickname

Mount Rushmore State

Mount Rushmore within the Black Hills is the most famous landmark in South Dakota. Therefore, it's not surprising that the area goes by the nickname of the Mount Rushmore State.

This is the official South Dakota state nickname, chosen in 1992. It also features on the state flag, making the name recognizable among all residents and many visitors. Not only is Mount Rushmore a beloved attraction, but it also benefits the state economy.

Designed by sculptor Gutzon Borglum and constructed between 1927 and 1941, Mount Rushmore has been drawing tourists to the Black Hills for decades. Around two million people visit the monument each year, with many being out-of-towners who will spend money at local businesses.

This moniker frequently appears on government documents, tourism information, and souvenirs, especially those sold around the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

In Conclusion

From monikers related to wildlife to those that highlight the state's much-loved Mount Rushmore, there's no shortage of fascinating alternate names for South Dakota. While some of the nicknames on this list are quite well-known, others are generally only known by residents.

For example, did you know that South Dakota was the Sunshine State before Florida? Or that the region has one of the world's largest pheasant populations, leading to the name Pheasant Capital of the World? No matter how many nicknames you already knew, hopefully, you learned a few new things about this Great Plains state. Now you just have to decide which moniker is your favorite!

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Written by Alli Sewell

allisewell FORMER WRITER Currently based in Canada, Alli has also lived and worked in the UK and Brazil and traveled in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. She loves finding the best photo-ops and food and drink locations wherever she goes.

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