21 Beautiful South Dakota Monuments and Landmarks: Explore Its Exciting History

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BY: Ingo70 on Shutterstock



Discover the rich heritage of this state by visiting these gorgeous South Dakota monuments. Take your kids for a fun learning trip about the multitude of history and culture surrounding South Dakota monuments.

From undulating plains to the majestic Black Hills National Forest, the midwestern state of the United States is home to spectacular natural landscapes. Other grandiose sculptures and monuments may be seen in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

There are a lot of significant attractions near these hills, including Mount Rushmore, Crazy horse memorial, badlands national park, and many more.

South Dakota Monuments and Landmarks

Here are the best South Dakota monuments for a fun day of discovery:

1. Crazy Horse Memorial

It was started in the late 1940s by Korczak Ziolkowski, and it is almost the second tallest statue globally. Fascinating right? By almost, we mean that it hasn’t been finished yet.

You would be interested to know that all of this has an exciting story! Picture this, years ago, a guy named Henry standing bear wanted to honor the Native Americans.

So he asked the people who built the Mount Rushmore national memorial to carve a beautiful rock structure of a Crazy Horse, a Native American hero, next to the American presidents.

Things went downhill when the lead sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, ignored the proposal. He felt that the leader of the reds also deserved a place with the leaders of whites for his victory over the US army in the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. A member of his team called Korczak Ziolkowski dedicated his life to the statue.

Ziolkowski carefully carved the perfect structure out of Thunderhead Mountain with his brilliant artistry and passionate mind. The sky was his limit.

The construction of this magnificent piece of art outlived the man who started building it in the first place. However, it has been 70 years since then, and it still hasn’t been finished.

Now, the soon-to-be largest monument sits atop the land in the Black Hills and is a great tourist hotspot! If you’re an explorer or just interested in history, this gorgeous statue is the one to visit out of all the other South Dakota monuments.

2. Mount Rushmore National Memorial

South Dakota Monuments - Mount Rushmore
By: Jim and Rob Kunze on Flickr Copyright 2022

This monument is a national pride carved into a beautiful white rock! It presents four great US presidents who played critical roles in the first 150 years of the history of the US.

The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a colossal sculpture carved into Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

The sculpture’s about 60-foot-high granite-faced symbolized U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. It was completed in 1941 under the guidance of Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln. A museum with interactive displays is also available on the premises.

You should check out this scenic beauty which is also a great representation of the USA’S rich heritage!

3. Badlands National Park

The Badlands in South Dakota are uncultivated eroded lands but are also one of the main tourist attractions in South Dakota. They were declared one of the South Dakota monuments in 1939 but later turned into a national park in 1976. Who could have known that erosion could have such a beautiful byproduct?

Spanning 242,756 acres of breath-taking views, animals such as bison, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs, and the world-famous badlands, South Dakota’s Badlands National Park is a spectacular geological wonderland. It is also close to some great historical sites.

So, what are you waiting for? Enjoy some picturesque views of colorful rock formations and discover the exotic wildlife in the badlands!

4. Mount Theodore Roosevelt Monument

This Friendship Tower is located atop Mount Roosevelt, about 2.5 miles from downtown Deadwood. Soaring high at 10 feet, this striking structure was constructed by Seth Bullock in honor of his friendship with President Theodore Roosevelt. Visitors may take in the vistas of the picturesque Black Hills after a short climb up to the tower.

Celebrate friendship! Honor the life of the great president Theodore Roosevelt, who propagated conservation of our lands and wildlife by visiting this monument.

5. Jewel Cave National Monument

Explore the underground world in a fascinating journey inside the Jewel cave. It is one of the world’s most beautiful caverns, with glistening crystals and interesting rock formations.

With over 200 miles, Jewel Cave is the world’s third-longest cave (321 km). Parts of the passages can be explored on guided tours by the National Park Service.

The cave and its environs are explained in detail in a tourist center. Hike along the Roof Route near the visitor center or the 3.5-mile (5.6-kilometer) trail snakes through Hell and Lithograph Canyons to stay above the earth.

6. Wounded Knee National Historic Landmark

History teaches us to reflect on our mistakes and never repeat them. That is the point of South Dakota monuments and historical landmarks. Learn how an atrocious act by the US army won them a medal at the wounded knee museum.

In an attempt to repress a religious movement in 1890, US soldiers slaughtered hundreds of Lakota men, women, and children and were given medals of valor for their actions.

Wounded Knee the Museum is a monument built to honor those slain at Wounded Knee Creek on December 28, 1890, and is located just north of Interstate 90 near Wall.

The Museum’s primary goal is to spread information about our shared history and aid in preserving the victims’ memories by encouraging visitors to learn about and reflect on the events.

7. Custer The Buffalo

Many presidents and native heroes have been honored and celebrated by using monuments. Now it is the turn of animals to be appreciated.

Life-size statues honoring the animals may be found throughout the Black Hills region. However, in Custer (not far from Mount Rushmore), the craftsmanship is taken to new heights. Each year in May, bronze bison and South Dakota monuments are revealed to protect the street corners.

As their bodies depict diverse Western themes and settings, these are canvases for paintings by local artists. The artworks are “corralled” and auctioned in September each year, just like a genuine buffalo sale.

You should also visit the Custer State Park system to view the abundance of precious buffaloes and the diverse neighboring animal life. Another must-visit is the

8. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

This site was created in 1999 to show how the United States defended itself throughout the Cold War. There were nearly a thousand nuclear missiles housed here, and hundreds more remain.

A visiting center, the Delta-01 Launch Control Facility, and the Delta-09 missile silo are among the three facilities. You may learn more about the Cold War and Minuteman Missiles at the visitor center and then take a ranger-led tour of the Delta-01 or Delta-09 missile silos to see an accurate nuclear missile in operation.

Except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year holidays, daily excursions are provided. Each journey is limited to six individuals plus a park ranger to protect the historic places and ensure the safety of guests.

9. Memorials on The Capitol Grounds

Bronze plaques and sculptures honor the heroic troops who died in war and those who returned home to little praise on the grounds of South Dakota’s Capitol building in Pierre.

Six soldiers, fresh from the war, pose in an eternal salute with Capitol Lake as their backdrop in the World War II Memorial. Soldiers are depicted in the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial as they would have appeared in war, wrapped and ragged.

A piece of the World Trade Center is on display near the southern entrance to Hilger’s Gulch Park’s walking trail, one block to the northeast, as a melancholy memorial to honor those who died on 9/11.

10. Battleship USS South Dakota Memorial

The USS South Dakota was one of World War II’s most decorated warships and one of the most famous US battleships in naval history.

The city of Sioux Falls sought to buy the ship when it was decommissioned to erect a memorial, but it was sadly scrapped for components.

Sioux Falls, not to be deterred, built the Battleship USS South Dakota Memorial by pouring concrete in the shape of the famous ship and placing parts of the ship that they could obtain in their proper positions.

11. Soldiers and Sailors World War Memorial

South Dakota Monuments - Soldiers and Sailors World War Memorial
By: Jeffrey Beall on Flickr Copyright 2022

The Troops & Sailors World War Memorial, located in Pierre, the state’s capital city, was built as a steel-and-sandstone memorial to soldiers who served during World War I.

It now houses the South Dakota Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and serves as a memorial to every courageous American who served their nation.

12. Black Hills National Cemetery

Row after row of neatly aligned headstones in the Black Hills National Cemetery, just outside of Sturgis and tucked in the shadow of the Black Hills, serve as a melancholy reminder of the ravages of war.

The groomed grounds of this cemetery are flanked by rolling ponderosa trees, providing a peaceful setting for paying homage to the servicemen and women who are put to rest here.

13. South Dakota Air and Space Museum

The South Dakota Air and Space Museum will mesmerize you if you’re interested in flight and aviation history. The museum, located on Ellsworth Air Force Base, exhibits over 30 antique military aircraft, ranging from WWII bombers to the modern-day B-1.

Each exhibit explores the story of the pilots and crews whose brave high-flying has kept America safe throughout the years.

Make your way to the air force base for a tour of the grounds to witness some actual American heroes in action once you’ve thoroughly inspected old and modern planes.

14. Old Fort Meade Museum

In 1878, Fort Meade was founded. It is now home to the Old Fort Meade Museum, which emphasizes significant aspects of military history, such as how a choice to play “The Star-Spangled Banner” during a military event led to it being the national anthem of the United States.

15. Armed Forces Display and Gifts

One family has converted their interest in all things military into a spectacular collection available to the public at Armed Forces Display & Gifts after collecting military artifacts for more than three decades.

Weapons, clothing, pictures, and equipment — including tanks! — from WWI to the current day are part of the ever-expanding collection. Located just off Interstate 90 near Wasta, this is a must-see stop on your trip to or from Rapid City.

16. South Dakota National Guard Museum

The South Dakota National Guard Museum, located near the Capitol in Pierre, strives to gather, conserve, safeguard, and exhibit military archives, equipment, and relics.

Heavy-duty military relics, such as a tank, a plane, anti-aircraft guns, cannons, and a wealth of information about the South Dakota National Guard throughout peace and conflict, may be found here. Discover the best historical South Dakota monuments in this museum.

17. South Dakota Veteran’s Park

This park, located near the South Dakota Hall of Fame on the Missouri River in Chamberlain, commemorates veterans and active service troops from every armed battle our country has faced.

Pavers contributed by military members, families, and friends proudly exhibit South Dakota’s everlasting support for our warriors. At the park’s central monument, six flags proudly wave, each representing a branch of the US military services.

18. Wind Cave National Park

Bison, elk, and other species wander the wooded slopes and undulating prairie grasslands of one of South Dakota’s oldest national parks. 

Wind Cave, one of the world’s most prolonged and most complicated caverns, is located beneath the last remaining island of the pristine prairie.

This network of passageways is home to box work, a unique creation that is rarely seen elsewhere and is named from the barometric winds near its entrance.

Wind Cave National Park is located in South Dakota’s southwest region. The large, underground Wind Cave, which includes chambers such as the Post Office and the Elks Room, is well-known.

Boxwork, honeycomb-shaped calcite structures, cover many of the cave’s walls. Bison, elk, and pronghorn antelopes live in the park’s plains and pine woodlands.

This park is also close to various South Dakota monuments with picturesque views.

Discover exotic animals, explore beautiful sites and click pictures as you conquer this complex cave.

19. Tatanka- Story of The Bison

This is one of the famous South Dakota monuments that pay homage to the majestic beast that once roamed the western plains of the United States.

The bison had an essential part in American history, and this location teaches us about it. The culture, traditions, and way of life of Native Americans in the past are shown in a reconstructed campsite. 14 bison and three Native Americans are depicted in bronze statues.

These statues were created with great care and attention, and the government has taken excellent care of them. The monument’s overall magnitude is more significant than life. It is both instructive and uplifting.

Here, you can view the magnificent Bison Statues, learn about these creatures at the informative film screenings and also grab some food for the show!

20. Dignity of Earth and Sky

This is one of the most beautiful and intricate South Dakota monuments to check out when you’re traveling. A silver scenic beauty, this is one of the main tourist hotspots in South Dakota.

Dignity is a sculpture located outside Chamberlain, South Dakota, on a hill overlooking the Missouri River. Dale Claude Lamphere, South Dakota’s artist laureate, created a 50-foot (15.24 meter) high stainless-steel monument depicting an Indigenous lady in Plains-style attire receiving a star quilt.

The artwork, according to Lamphere, respects the culture of South Dakota’s indigenous Lakota and Dakota peoples.

21. Porter Sculpture Park

Visit this park and experience an art wonderland showcasing creativity in its proper form!

Porter Sculpture Park is located in Montrose, South Dakota, right off Interstate 90. (About 25 miles west of Sioux Falls, on the eastern edge of McCook County).

It’s located on the South Dakota Drift Prairie, about a quarter-mile from the freeway. The Park, which spans ten acres, is home to more than 50 sculptures.

Scrap metal, disused agricultural equipment, and railroad tie plates were used to create many of the sculptures in the industrial art style. A 60-foot-tall (18-meter) bullhead is the park’s most enormous sculpture.

This sculpture took three years to complete, weighs 25 tons, and is the same size as Mount Rushmore’s heads.

South Dakota monuments and national parks are America’s national treasures. Here you can discover the true beauty and learn about the brave heroes and leaders that make America so great.

Overall, South Dakota monuments and landmarks are magical places where various gorgeous sculptures and statues paint American history in a heroic light.

South Dakota is a must-visit for those who like to learn and explore. Scenic views combined with educational ventures can do you no wrong. So, get on the next flight to view the 15 exciting wonders of South Dakota!

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