When most people think of the Dakotas, the first thing that comes to mind is Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills region. Now, I’m not going to tell you that the Black Hills are not worth checking out, because they absolutely are! What I will say is that there are other hidden gems to be found, both North and South. So, I set out on a little trek across the two states and I found a few things that are worth a mention.
After staying the night in Sioux Falls, I headed north on I-29 and decided that I would head west on US 12. I always thought that the Dakotas were this dry waste land, but what I found was a little different. I was expecting an uninspiring drive all the way to Mobridge and the Missouri River, but I was pleasantly surprised that there were dozens of lakes that shined like mirrors in the morning still. Bald eagles circled above and the early fisherman started to gather on the shores.
Once I got to Mobridge what stood out to me was Lake Oahe, which is the large reservoir created when Oahe Dam was built across the Missouri River. In the morning sun, the deep blue color of the lake painted a perfect contrast to the greens and browns that surrounded it. Once you cross the river, there is a short side trip along the shore to the resting place of Sitting Bull within the Standing Rock Reservation. Unfortunately, the site is showing some signs of neglect, but the view of Lake Oahe is all you really notice.
Once I finished my journey across South Dakota and made my way into North Dakota, I was curious to see what was referred to as the Enchanted Highway. The Enchanted Highway is a county road that connects Regent and Gladstone. What makes the road enchanted is the numerous scrap metal sculptures that are placed along the way. Don’t worry about finding all of them, because there is very little to hide these humongous works of art.
There is everything from a family of farmers, to grasshoppers, to birds, and even a school of fish. Not exactly what you expect for road side scenery in the Western Dakotas, but you have to admire the creativity.
Finally, my last stop isn’t exactly a hidden gem, but it is certainly a gem none the less. The southern unit of Teddy Roosevelt National Park sits right off of I-94, just north of Medora. Roosevelt NP is very similar in make-up of Badlands National Park and have many of the same features. Also, it is a great park for someone that might only have a day, or even just a few hours. The park has a scenic loop that almost everyone follows and there are many different points were you can pull off and get out of the car and take in the views.
One could get around the park in a couple of hours without any trouble, and they wouldn’t feel like they cheated themselves out of the experience. However, someone could spend days with all of the backpacking opportunities to be had. It truly is a park that has something to offer almost anyone.
Now I know, that I have left some places out. There is only so much you can do in a day. I guess I will just have to take a different route next time to find some more gems.