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South Dakota State Guide

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South Dakota is located in the Midwestern region of the United States. This state has often been referred to as Flag of South Dakotathe land of infinite variety. And everything from the weather to scenery, the economy to the state symbols reflects that variety. South Dakota was added to the union on 2nd November 1889 as the 40th state[1]. The nickname of the state is Mt. Rushmore State or Coyote State. The capital of South Dakota is Pierre.

South Dakota Fast Facts
  • State capitol: Pierre
  • Statehood: November 2, 1889
  • Largest city: Sioux Falls
  • Largest metro: Sioux falls metropolitan area
  • Nickname: Mt. Rushmore State
  • Official Language: English
South Dakota State Symbols
  • State Animal: Coyote
  • State Bird: Chinese ring-necked pheasant
  • State Fish: Walleye
  • State Insect: Honey Bee State
  • State Flower: Pasque
  • State Tree: Black Hills spruce
  • State Soil: Houdek
  • State Fossil: Triceratops
  • State Mineral: Rose quartz
  • State Gemstone: Fairburn agate
  • State Dessert: Kuchen
  • State Sport: Rodeo
  • State Song: Hail, South Dakota
  • State Motto: Under God the People Rule.
  • State Slogan: Great Faces. Great Places

History of South Dakota

The first inhabitants to live in South Dakota were Paleoindian hunter-gatherers and around 5000 BC they disappeared from the area. A semi-nomadic people known as the Mound Builders, between 500 AD and 800 AD lived in central and eastern South Dakota. The Crow Creek Massacre occurred in the 14th century in which several hundred men, women, and children were killed near the Missouri River.

The tribes of the Sioux Nation clash with the Arikara, Omaha and Mandan for control of eastern Dakota from 1700 to 1750. In the year 1762, the entire region, until 1802, became part of the Spanish Louisiana. By the early 19th century, the Sioux Nation dominates the northern Plains.

South Dakota Capitol Building

The United States purchased the Louisiana Territory in 1803, an area that included most of South Dakota, from Napoleon Bonaparte. President Thomas Jefferson formed a group commonly referred to as the "Lewis and Clark Expedition" to explore the newly acquired region. An American fur trading post was set up at present-day Fort Pierre in 1817, which started continuous American settlement of the area. In the year 1858 the Yankton Sioux signed the 1858 Treaty, giving most of present-day eastern South Dakota to the United States. In the year 1861, Yankton is named capital of newly organized Dakota Territory. The territory included North Dakota, South Dakota and parts of Wyoming and Montana. In the year 1874, an expedition led by Lt. Col. George A. Custer discovers gold in the Black Hills.

The Dakota Territory was divided into half due to growing population and President Benjamin Harrison signed proclamations and formally announced the admission of South Dakota as the 40th state to the union on 2nd November 1889.

The 7th Cavalry in 1890 kills more than 250 Lakota men, women and children and this incident came to be Mount Rushmoreknown as the Wounded Knee Massacre. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum in 1927 started the work on Mount Rushmore National Memorial. He aspires to carve the four presidents to their waists but in 1941 he dies before the work is completed. In 1935, the first electric cooperative in South Dakota is organized.

In the year 1944, the Pick-Sloan flood control act is passed, that funded four dams on the Missouri River in South Dakota. In 1973, nearly about 200 armed members of the American Indian Movement occupy Wounded Knee to protest policies towards Native Americans. South Dakota celebrates its centennial in 1989. The WWII Memorial on the Capitol grounds in Pierre is unveiled in 2001 and it is first kind in the nation. In the year 2014, South Dakota celebrated the 125th anniversary of its statehood.

South Dakota History Timeline
  • 1743: French explorers, the LaVerendrye brothers, demanded area for France.
  • 1803: In Louisiana Purchase, U. S. acquired South Dakota from France.
  • 1861: Dakota Territory was established.
  • 1868: Treaty signed with the Sioux.
  • 1889: South Dakota added into the Union as the 40th state.
  • 1890: Wounded Knee Massacre took place.
  • 1927: Gutzon Borglam started work on Mount Rushmore National Monument.
  • 1944: Congress passed Pick-Sloan Plan for construction of four dams.
  • 1952: Major flood caused damage in most areas of the state, inundated most of Pierre.
  • 1972:  Flood in Rapid City region killed over 200.
  • 1988: Severe drought conditions in the state caused crop failures and lack of feed for cattle.
  • 2010: CNBC names South Dakota as the seventh best place to do business in U.S.
  • 2011: South Dakota had third lowest unemployment rate in the nation.
  • 2011: Dennis Daugaard appointed as 32nd Governor of South Dakota.
  • 2014: South Dakota celebrated the 125th anniversary of its statehood.

Geography of South Dakota

Glacial lakes, fertile farmland and sprawling prairies dominate the landscape in eastern South Dakota. Ranchland and Prairies are common in central South Dakota. Mountains cover the western skyline, and striking Badlands formations rise abruptly from the surrounding prairie in the southwest. The Missouri River flows through the central and southeastern part of South Dakota. The total land Area: of the state is 75,898 sq. miles and is the 16th largest state in the nation. South Dakota is bordered on the east by Minnesota, on the west by Montana and Wyoming, North Dakota on the north and by Nebraska on the south.

South Dakota Land Regions    Geography map of South Dakota

South Dakota consists of four major land regions which are: the Drift Prairie, the Dissected Till Plains, the Great Plains, and the Black Hills.

The Drift Prairie

Most of eastern South Dakota is covered by Drift Prairie. This area is known for low hills and glacial lakes. The early French traders called this area Coteau des Prairies (Prairie Hills). The Prairie Hills is bordered on the east by the Minnesota River Valley and on the west by the James River Basin. The James River Basin is mostly flat land area.

The Dissected Till Plains

The Dissected Till Plain region is located in the southeastern corner of South Dakota. This region of rolling hills is criss-crossed by several streams.

The Great Plains

Most area of the western 2/3 of South Dakota is covered by The Great Plains. The Coteau de Missouri hills and valleys are located between the James River Basin of the Drift Prairie and the Missouri River. Much landscape becomes more rugged to the west of the Missouri River and it consists of plains, canyons, rolling hills, and steep flat-topped hills called buttes. Badlands are located in the south, to the east of The Black Hills. The Badlands National Park is located in this area.

The Black Hills

The Black Hills are located in the southwestern part of South Dakota and extend into Wyoming. Harney Peak, the highest point in South Dakota is located in the Black Hills. This region is rich in minerals such as silver, gold, lead and copper. One of the largest gold mines in the United States, the Homestake Mine, is located in the Black Hills. Also located here are Mt. Rushmore, Wind Cave and Custer National Parks and the Crazy Horse Memorial.


South Dakota experiences a continental climate with four distinct season’s summer, spring, winter and fall. The summers in South Dakota are warm with little humidity and the winters here are generally snowy and cold. The coldest month of South Dakota is January and the average temperature overnight is 5.63 degree F. The warmest month is In July, when the average day time temperature rises to 86.25 degree F. Generally, the northeastern part of South Dakota is coolest.

Amounts of annual precipitation vary across South Dakota. The Western South Dakota region generally has the least amount, while the east is the wettest region of the state. Generally, December is the driest month, with a statewide average of 0.45 inches, and June is the wettest month with an average of 3.33 inches. The eastern part of the South Dakota tends to be the wettest.

Forest Service in South Dakota

The Division of Forestry and Conservation of South Dakota is responsible for the management and conservation of the forest resource of South Dakota, operation and maintenance of the State Park system and support of outdoor recreation for the people of the state and also visitors. The state covers 1.7 million acres of forestland.

South Dakota National Forests

The state of South Dakota has three National forests which are mentioned below:

Black Hills National ForestBlack Hills National Forest

The Black Hills National Forest is located in western South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming. It covers an area of 125 miles long and 65 miles wide. Thousands of tourists visit the Black Hills each year to experience the rich and diverse heritage.

Contact Details
Black Hills National Forest
1019 N. 5th Street
Custer, SD 57730
Phone no: 605-673-9200
Read more: Black Hills National Forest

The Dakota Prairie National Grasslands

The Dakota Prairie National Grasslands stretches over 1,259,000 acres. This grassland offers tourist the opportunity to view elk, whitetail, antelope, mule deer, coyotes, bighorn sheep, sharptail grouse and lots more.

Contact Details
Dakota Prairie Grasslands Supervisor's Office
2000 Miriam Circle
Bismarck, ND 58501
Phone no: 701-989-7300
Read more: Dakota Prairie National Grasslands

The Nebraska National Forests and GrasslandsThe Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands

The Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands lies in central and western Nebraska and central and western South Dakota. This area is formed of 2 national forests, 3 national grasslands, a tree nursery, and is host to a Job Corps facility.

Contact Details
Nebraska National Forests & Grasslands
125 North Main Street
Chadron, NE 69337
Read more: Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands

Important Mountain Peaks in South Dakota

  • Harney Peak is the highest point in South Dakota and it is located 7,242 feet above sea level in the Black Hills.
  • Odakota Mountain is the second highest mountain in the state, and is located near lead.
  • Bear Mountain is he 3rd highest mountain in South Dakota with an elevation of 7,165 feet above sea level.
  • Green Mountain is the 4th highest mountain in South Dakota with an elevation of 7,164 feet above sea level.
Geography Quick Facts
  • Total area: 77, 12 square miles
  • Longitude: 97 degree 28' 33"W to 104 degree3'W
  • Latitude: 42 degree 29' 30"N to 45 degree 56'N
  • Highest elevation: Harney Peak (7,242 feet)
  • Lowest elevation: Big Stone Lake (966 feet)
  • Major Rivers: Cheyenne, Missouri, James, White
  • Major Lakes: Oahe, Francis Case, Lewis and Clark

Economy of South Dakota

Several sectors play a major role in the economic growth of South Dakota. Agriculture is the largest industry in the state.  Tourism is also contributes to the economy of the state bringing in about $2 billion, annually. The service sector, retail trade and manufacturing industries account for the majority of the employment of the state.

South Dakota Economy Fast Facts

  • Gross domestic product (GDP) in (millions of current dollars) of all industry total in 2013 - $ 46,732[2]
  • South Dakota’s per capita real GDP in 2013 - $ 48,696
  • South Dakota’s per capita personal income in 2014 - $ 46,345
  • South Dakota’s unemployment rate in 2015- 5.4 %

Agriculture in South DakotaEconomy of South Dakota

  • Agriculture is the leading industry of South Dakota.
  • South is the largest producer of hay, sunflowers, rye, honey, soybeans, corn, wheat and cattle.
  • Important livestock in South Dakota are Bison, Pork, Beef Cows, Cattle and Calves, Sheep and Lambs.
  • 98% of farms and ranches in South Dakota are family owned and operated.

Industries in South Dakota

  • The state has a big mining industry.
  • The Homestake Mine is the largest gold-producing mine in South Dakota.
  • The food processing market is also very large in South Dakota.
  • South Dakota consists of a large non-electrical machinery manufacturing market.

Tourism in South Dakota

Tourism is also an important part of the economy of South Dakota. The tourism industry also contributes a large share to the economic development of the state. South Dakota has plenty of places to visit and most of them are unique and different from the places one can see other states.

The top places to visit in South Dakota are:Falls Park & Visitor Information Center See more: Tourist attractions in South Dakota

Demographics of South Dakota

The population of South Dakota as of 2014 estimation by the U.S. Census Bureau was 844,877[3]. The 2014 census reflected a hike of 4.79% % since the year 2010.

South Dakota Population Quick facts
  • Population, 2014 estimate: 853,175
  • Population, 2013 estimate: 845,510
  • Population, 2010 (April 1) estimates base: 814,191
  • Population, percent change - April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014: 4.8%
  • Population, percent change - April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013: 3.8%
  • Population, 2010: 814,180
  • Persons under 5 years, percent, 2013: 7.1%
  • Persons under 18 years, percent, 2013: 24.6%
  • Persons 65 years and over, percent, 2013: 14.9%
  • Female persons, percent, 2013: 49.8%
South Dakota Racial Groups
  • White alone, percent, 2013 (a): 85.9%
  • Black or African American alone, percent, 2013 (a): 1.9%
  • American Indian and Alaska Native alone, percent, 2013 (a): 8.9%
  • Asian alone, percent, 2013 (a): 1.2%
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone, percent, 2013 (a): 0.1%
  • Two or More Races, percent, 2013: 2.1%
  • Hispanic or Latino, percent, 2013 (b): 3.4%
  • White alone, not Hispanic or Latino, percent, 2013: 83.3%

Transportation in South Dakota

The South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) overviews the entire transportation network of the state and ensure safe and easy commuting of people and goods. The department provides safe, reliable and convenient travel options for the residents of the state.

The Road Transportation in South Dakota comprises of interstate highways, state routes and bridges. SDDOT is committed to ensure safe, convenient and reliable road transportation in South Dakota so as to provide easy connectivity to various cities and states. The interstate highways form an important part of inter-regional corridors in South Dakota. The important Interstate Highways in South Dakota are Interstate 29, Interstate 229, Interstate 90 and Interstate 190.Bus service forms an important part of South Dakota roadways. It makes commuting of people easy and convenient.Transportation in South Dakota

Air Transportation is an essential gateway of South Dakota serving the locals and tourists. It is the major mode of transportation that offers all round efficient and easy connectivity. Air transportation is vital to South Dakota's economy. South Dakota currently has 71 public use airports.The major airports in South Dakota are: Rapid City Regional Airport, Pierre Regional Airport, Aberdeen Regional Airport, Watertown Regional Airport, Huron Airport and Sioux Falls Regional Airport.

Rail Transportation is one of the main transportation modes in South Dakota serving people with full dedication. Railways are important for cargo transfer also. The South Dakota department of Transportation oversees all rail services and its proper functioning across the state. The railroads operating in South Dakota are State Owned Railroad, Dakota, Missouri Valley and Western Railroad, Dakota Southern Railway, Ellis & Eastern Railroad, Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern, SunFlour Railroad, CP/SOO Line Railroad, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and Sisseton-Milbank Railroad

Water Transportation plays a major role in South Dakota's transportation system. Other than serving as an enjoyable mode of transportation with many scenic sites to explore along the way, water transportation also serves as a major mode for freight movement to various cities, states and worldwide through seaports.The South Dakota Port has international cargo and air passenger processing facility. Every person and organization in the Port area benefits from the South Dakota Port’s infrastructure.

Read more: Transportation in South Dakota

Government of South Dakota

The Government of South Dakota is divided into three branches the Executive branch, the Legislative branch and the Judiciary branch. The Governor is the head of the executive Branch of South Dakota.

The Executive Branch of South Dakota consists of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Auditor and State Treasurer. The Governor is the head of Executive Branch of South Dakota. The Lieutenant Governor of South Dakota is the second highest elected official in the State. Government of South Dakota

The Legislative Branch of South Dakota consists of the House of Representative and the State Senate. The House of Representatives of South Dakota is the lower house of the State Legislature. The House comprises of 70 members who is elected for four year term. The Senate is the upper house of the State of South Dakota. The Senate consists of 35 members and they are elected for two year term.

The Judiciary branch of South Dakota applies law and regulations and also ensures justice in the state. The South Dakota Judiciary consists of South Dakota Supreme court, Circuit Courts and Magistrate Court.The Supreme Court is the highest court in the state of South Dakota. The Supreme Court of South Dakota has the power to review decisions made by lower courts.


The Department of Revenue of South Dakota is responsible to collect taxes required by law. The Department categorizes Taxes into three separate sections namely Business Tax, Property Taxes and Special Taxes. The Special Tax Division is responsible for collecting a large number of state taxes. The taxes in South Dakota include: Business Tax, Property Taxes and Special Taxes.

Read more: Government of South Dakota

Health Care in South Dakota

The South Dakota Department of Health provides health care and social service support to the citizens of the state. The department strives to improve the quality of life for the state’s citizens by promoting health and well-being and preventing diseases.

Hospitals in South Dakota provide quality health care to the citizens of the state. The South Dakota hospitals provide emergency, inpatient, outpatient care and diagnostic every day to those in need. The hospitals in South Dakota are well equipped with state of art technology and provide committed services to the patients.Health Care in South Dakota

Several organizations in South Dakota are dedicated to provide blood to those in need. These organizations are committed and striving to meet the emergency needs of the people of South Dakota.

The South Dakota Medicaid is the financed health and long-term care coverage program for low-income individuals. South Dakota Medicaid covers hospital stays, prescriptions, doctor visits, nursing home care and other health care needs.

The office of vital records and health statistics of the South Dakota department of health manages the collection and statistics distribution of public health and vital statistics data in the state. The office of vital records maintains birth, death, marriage, and divorce records for the state of South Dakota and issues certified copies of such records.

Read more: Health Care in South Dakota

Education in South Dakota

Education system in South Dakota comprises of public and private schools that includes the south Dakota State Colleges, the University of South Dakota, private colleges, secondary and primary schools in South Dakota. The Department of Education of South Dakota is responsible to provide support, leadership, and oversight to ensure to make sure that the South Dakota public education system enables each student to be successful.

Contact DetailsEducation in South Dakota
South Dakota Department of Education
800 Governors Drive
Pierre, SD 57501
Phone no: (605) 773-3134
Website: South Dakota Department of Education

Mentioned below are names of some universities and colleges in South Dakota.
South Dakota Interesting Facts
  • The Nickname of South Dakota is The Mount Rushmore State.
  • The Highest Point in the state is Harney Peak in the Black Hills.
  • The State Song is "Hail, South Dakota".
  • The State Motto is "Under God, the people rule".
  • The State Slogan is "Great Faces. Great Places”.

  1. South Dakota Satehood
  2. Economy Facts
  3. Population of South Dakota
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