Located in the north-central United States, South Dakota is bisected by the Missouri River, dividing the state into two socially and economically distinct halves, known to residents as "West River" and "East River". Rich soil in the eastern part of the state is used to grow a variety of crops, while ranching is the predominant agricultural activity in the west. In the southwestern portion of the state rise the Black Hills, a group of low, pine-covered mountains. A region of great religious importance to local American Indians as well as a major draw for the state tourism industry, the Black Hills are also the location of Mt. Rushmore, probably the best-known location in the state and a widely used symbol of South Dakota.
Historically dominated by an agricultural economy and a rural lifestyle, South Dakota has recently sought to diversify its economy in an effort to attract and retain residents. The state is still largely rural, though, with one of the lowest population densities in the United States. While several notable Democratic senators have represented South Dakota at the federal level, the state's government is largely dominated by the Republican Party, and Republicans have carried South Dakota in the last ten presidential elections.
The Drift Prairie covers most of eastern South Dakota. This is the land of low hills and glacial lakes. This area was called Coteau des Prairies (Prairie Hills) by early French traders. In the north, the Coteau des Prairies 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, following the flow of the James River through South Dakota from north to south.
The Dissected Till Plains lie in the southeastern corner of South Dakota. This area of rolling hills is criss-crossed by many streams.
The Great Plains cover most of the western two-thirds of South Dakota. The Coteau de Missouri hills and valleys lie between the James River Basin of the Drift Prairie and the Missouri River. West of the Missouri River the landscape becomes more rugged and consists of rolling hills, plains, canyons, and steep flat-topped hills called buttes. These buttes sometimes rise 400 to 600 feet (120 to 180 m) above the plains. In the south, east of the Black Hills, lie the South Dakota Badlands.
The Black Hills are in the southwestern part of South Dakota and extend into Wyoming. This range of low mountains covers 6,000 square miles (15,500 km².) with mountains that rise from 2,000 to 4,000 feet (600 to 1,200 m) above their bases. The highest point in South Dakota, Harney Peak (7,242 ft or 2,207 m above sea level), is in the Black Hills. This is the highest point in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. The Black Hills are rich in minerals such as gold, silver, copper, and lead. The Homestake Mine, one of the largest gold mines in the United States, is located in the Black Hills. The mine has closed and will be the site of an underground science laboratory.
South Dakotans also divide the state at the Missouri River into two general regions, known as West River and East River. The river serves as a somewhat stark boundary in terms of geographic, social and political differences between the two regions. West River features a more arid landscape, an economy largely based on tourism and ranching, and, aside from the Indian Reservations, a very conservative political climate. East River, on the other hand, is more densely populated, agriculture there is based more on farming than ranching, and the region is more politically moderate.
The Missouri River is the largest and longest river in the state. Other major South Dakota rivers include the Cheyenne, the James, the Big Sioux, and the White. South Dakota has many natural lakes, mostly occurring in the eastern part of the state. Additionally, dams on the Missouri River create four large reservoirs: Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe, Lake Francis Case, and Lewis and Clark Lake.
Much of South Dakota, with the notable exception of the Black Hills, is dominated by a temperate grasslands biome. Although grasses and crops cover most of this region, deciduous trees such as cottonwoods, elms, and willows are common near rivers and in shelter belts. Mammals in this area include bison, deer, pronghorn, coyotes, and prairie dogs. The state bird, the ring-necked pheasant, has adapted particularly well to the area after being introduced from China, and growing populations of bald eagles are spread throughout the state, especially near the Missouri River. Rivers and lakes of the grasslands support populations of walleye, carp, pike, and bass, along with other species. The Missouri River also contains the pre-historic paddlefish.
Due to higher elevation and precipitation, the ecology of the Black Hills differs significantly from that of the plains. The mountains are thickly blanketed by various types of pine, mostly of the ponderosa and spruce varieties. Black Hills mammals include mule deer, elk (wapiti), bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and mountain lions, while the streams and lakes contain several species of trout.
The precipitation of the state ranges from semi-arid, in the northwestern part of the state (around 15 inches of annual precipitation) to semi-humid around the southeast portion of the state (around 25 inches of annual precipitation), although a small area centered around Lawrence County has the highest precipitation at nearly 30 inches per annum.
South Dakota summers bring frequent thunderstorms which can be severe with high winds, thunder, and hail. The eastern part of the state is often considered part of tornado alley, and South Dakota experiences an average of 23 tornadoes per year. Winters are somewhat more stable, although severe weather in the form of blizzards and ice storms can occur during the season.
|Monthly Normal High and Low Temperatures For Various South Dakota Cities|
South Dakota contains several sites that are protected by the National Park Service. Two national parks have been established in South Dakota, both of which are located in the southwestern part of the state. Badlands National Park was created in 1978. The park features a highly eroded, brightly-colored landscape surrounded by semi-arid grasslands. Wind Cave National Park, established in 1903 in the Black Hills, contains an extensive cave network as well as a large herd of bison. Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills was established in 1925. The well-known attraction features a mountain carved by sculptor Gutzon Borglum to resemble four former U.S. presidents. Other areas managed by the National Park Service include Jewel Cave National Monument near Custer, Crazy Horse Memorial, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, which features a decommissioned nuclear missile silo, and the Missouri National Recreational River.
In 1803, the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon, and President Thomas Jefferson organized a group commonly referred to as the "Lewis and Clark Expedition" to explore the newly-acquired region. In 1817, an American fur trading post was set up at present-day Fort Pierre, beginning continuous American settlement of the area. In 1855, the U.S. Army bought Fort Pierre but abandoned it the following year in favor of Fort Randall to the south. Settlement by Americans and Europeans was by this time increasing rapidly, and in 1858 the Yankton Sioux signed the 1858 Treaty, ceding most of present-day eastern South Dakota to the United States.
Land speculators founded two of eastern South Dakota's largest present-day cities: Sioux Falls in 1856 and Yankton in 1859. In 1861, Dakota Territory was established by the United States government (this initially included North Dakota, South Dakota, and parts of Montana and Wyoming). Settlers from Scandinavia, Germany, Ireland, and Russia, as well as elsewhere in Europe and from the eastern U.S. states increased from a trickle to a flood, especially after the completion of an eastern railway link to the territorial capital of Yankton in 1872, and the discovery of gold in the Black Hills in 1874 during a military expedition led by George A. Custer. This expedition took place despite the fact that the western half of present day South Dakota had been granted to the Sioux by the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) as part of the Great Sioux Reservation. The Sioux declined to grant mining rights or land in the Black Hills, and war broke out after the U.S. failed to stop white miners and settlers from entering the region. The Sioux were eventually defeated and settled on reservations within South Dakota and North Dakota.
An increasing population caused Dakota Territory to be divided in half and a bill for statehood for North Dakota and South Dakota (as well as Montana and Washington) titled the Enabling Act of 1889 was passed on February 22, 1889 during the Administration of Grover Cleveland. It was left to his successor, Benjamin Harrison, to sign proclamations formally admitting North and South Dakota to the Union on November 2, 1889. Harrison directed his Secretary of State, James G. Blaine, to shuffle the papers and obscure from him which he was signing first and the actual order went unrecorded.
On December 29, 1890, the Wounded Knee Massacre occurred on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Commonly cited as the last major armed conflict between the United States and the Sioux Nation, the massacre resulted in the deaths of an estimated 300 Sioux, many of them women and children. 25 U.S. soldiers were also killed in the conflict.
During the 1930s, several economic and climatic conditions combined with disastrous results for South Dakota. A lack of rainfall, extremely high temperatures and over-cultivation of farmland produced what was known as the Dust Bowl in South Dakota and several other plains states. Fertile topsoil was blown away in massive dust storms, and several harvests were completely ruined. The experiences of the Dust Bowl, coupled with local bank foreclosures and the general economic effects of the Great Depression resulted in many South Dakotans leaving the state. The population of South Dakota declined by more than seven percent between 1930 and 1940.
Economic stability returned with the U.S. entry into World War II in 1941, when demand for the state's agricultural and industrial products grew as the nation mobilized for war. In 1944, the Pick-Sloan Plan was passed as part of the Flood Control Act of 1944 by the U.S. Congress, resulting in the construction of six large dams on the Missouri River, four of which are at least partially located in South Dakota. Flood control, hydroelectricity and recreational opportunities such as boating and fishing are provided by the dams and their reservoirs.
In recent decades, South Dakota has transformed from a state dominated by agriculture to one with a more diversified economy. The tourism industry has grown considerably since the completion of the interstate system in the 1960s, with the Black Hills being especially impacted. The financial service industry began to grow in the state as well, with Citibank moving its credit card operations from New York to Sioux Falls in 1981, a move that has since been followed by several other financial companies. In 2007, the site of the recently-closed Homestake gold mine near Lead was chosen as the location of a new underground research facility. Despite a growing state population and recent economic development, many rural areas have been struggling over the past 50 years with locally declining populations and the emigration of educated young adults to larger South Dakota cities, such as Rapid City or Sioux Falls, or to other states.
The effect of rural flight has not been spread evenly through South Dakota, however. Although most rural counties and small towns have lost population, the Sioux Falls area and the Black Hills have gained population. In fact, Lincoln County, near Sioux Falls, is the ninth-fastest growing county (by percentage) in the United States. The growth in these areas has compensated for losses in the rest of the state, and South Dakota's total population continues to increase steadily, albeit at a slower rate than the national average.
The current-dollar gross state product of South Dakota was $32.3 billion as of 2006. The per capita personal income was $26,894 in 2004, the 37th highest in the nation and 13.08 percent below the national average. 13.2% of the population is below the poverty line. As of July 2007, South Dakota's unemployment rate was 3.0%, the fifth-lowest jobless rate in the nation.
The service industry is the largest economic contributor in South Dakota. This sector includes the retail, finance, and health care industries. Government spending is another important segment of the state's economy, providing over ten percent of the gross state product. Ellsworth Air Force Base, near Rapid City, is the second-largest single employer in the state.
Agriculture has historically been a key component of the South Dakota economy. Although other industries have expanded rapidly in recent decades, agricultural production is still very important to the state's economy, especially in rural areas. The five most valuable agricultural products in South Dakota are cattle, corn (maize), soybeans, hogs, and wheat. Agriculture-related industries such as meat packing and ethanol production also have a considerable economic impact on the state. South Dakota is the sixth leading ethanol-producing state in the nation.
Another important sector in South Dakota's economy is tourism. Many travel to view the attractions of the state, particularly those of the Black Hills region such as historic Deadwood, Mt. Rushmore, and the nearby state and national parks. One of the largest tourist events in the state is the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The five day event drew over 450,000 attendants in 2006, significant considering the state has a population of only 750,000. In 2006, tourism provided an estimated 33,000 jobs in the state and contributed over two billion US$ to the economy of South Dakota.
Ad valorem property taxes are local taxes and are a large source of funding for school systems, counties, municipalities and other local government units. Their administration is a local responsibility. The state revenue department does not collect or use property taxes, but it does centrally assess the property of large companies. The legislature sets some standards by general acts. The South Dakota Special Tax Division regulates some taxes including cigarette and alcohol related taxes.
South Dakota has a total of 83,609 miles of highways, roads, and streets, along with 679 miles of interstate highways. Two major interstates pass through South Dakota: Interstate 90, which runs east and west; and Interstate 29, running north and south in the eastern portion of the state. The counties and towns along Interstate 29 make up what is locally referred to as "the I-29 corridor." This area features generally higher rates of population and economic growth than areas in eastern South Dakota that are further from the interstate. Interstate 90, being a major route between western national parks and large cities to the east, brings many out-of-state travelers through South Dakota, thus helping to boost the tourism and hospitality industries. Also located in the state are the shorter interstates 190, a spur into central Rapid City, and 229, a loop around eastern and southern Sioux Falls. Pierre, South Dakota is notable as the only mainland US state Capital not located on or near an Interstate Highway. Several major U.S. highways pass through the state. U.S. routes 12, 14, 16, 18, and 212 travel east and west, while U.S. routes 81, 83, 85 and 281 run north and south.
South Dakota contains two National Scenic Byways. The Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway is located in the Black Hills, while the Native American Scenic Byway runs along the Missouri River in the north-central part of the state. Other scenic byways include the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway, the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, and the Wildlife Loop Road Scenic Byway.
Railroads have played an important role in South Dakota transportation since the mid nineteenth century. Historically, the Milwaukee Road and the Chicago & North Western were the state's largest railroads, and the Milwaukee's east-west transcontinental line traversed the northern tier of the state. Some 4,420 miles of railroad track were built in South Dakota during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but only 1,839 miles of railroad are currently operational. BNSF Railway is currently the largest railroad in South Dakota, primarily operating former Milwaukee Road trackage; the Dakota, Minnesota, and Eastern Railroad is the state's other major carrier, mostly operating former Chicago & North Western trackage. Rail transportation in the state is confined only to freight, however, as South Dakota is one of the few states without any Amtrak service.
South Dakota's largest commercial airports are located at Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Several other cities in the state also have commercial air service, some of which is subsidized by the Essential Air Service program.
South Dakota license plates are numbered by county, with the first digit referring to the county of origin. Such a numbering system allows one to easily determine where the vehicle was registered. Counties 1–9 are ranked by 1950 population, and counties 10–64 are numbered alphabetically.
Currently, there are 35 members of the state Senate and 70 members of the House of Representatives. The state is composed of 35 legislative districts. Voters elect one senator and two representatives from each district. The legislature meets for a thirty day session starting on the second Tuesday in January, and also if the governor calls a special session.
The state Supreme Court is the highest court in South Dakota and the court of last resort for state appellate actions. The chief justice and four justices comprise the South Dakota Supreme Court. South Dakota is divided into seven judicial circuits. There are 39 circuit judges serving in the seven circuits. Circuit courts are the state's trial courts of general jurisdiction. There are 12 full-time and three part-time magistrate judges in the seven circuits. Magistrate courts assist the circuit courts in disposing of misdemeanor criminal cases and minor civil actions. These courts of limited jurisdiction make the judicial system more accessible to the public by providing a means of direct court contact for the average citizen.
|2004||59.91% 232,584||38.44% 149,244|
|2000||60.3% 190,700||37.56% 118,804|
|1996||46.49% 150,543||43.03% 139,333|
|1992||40.66% 136,718||37.14% 124,888|
|1988||52.85% 165,415||46.51% 145,560|
|1984||63.0% 200,267||36.53% 116,113|
|1980||60.53% 198,343||31.69% 103,855|
|1976||50.39% 151,505||48.91% 147,068|
|1972||54.15% 166,467||45.52% 139,945|
|1968||53.27% 149,841||41.96% 118,023|
|1964||44.39% 130,108||55.61% 163,010|
|1960||58.21% 178,417||41.79% 128,070|
South Dakota politics are generally dominated by the Republican Party, and the state has not supported a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964 — especially notable when one considers that George McGovern, the Democratic nominee in 1972, was from South Dakota. In 2004, George W. Bush won the state's three electoral votes with 59.9% of the vote. Additionally, a Democrat has not won the governorship since 1978. As of 2006, Republicans hold a 10% voter registration advantage over Democrats and hold majorities in both the state House of Representatives and Senate. Excluding United States senators and congressmen, All but one of the current statewide elected officers are Republicans.
Despite the state's general Republican and conservative leanings, Democrats have found success in various state-wide elections, most notably in those involving South Dakota's congressional representatives in Washington. Two of the three current members of the state's congressional delegation are Democrats, and until his electoral defeat in 2004 Senator Tom Daschle served as both senator for South Dakota as well as the senate minority (briefly majority) leader.
Contemporary political issues in South Dakota include the costs and benefits of the state lottery, South Dakota's relatively low rankings in education spending (particularly teacher pay), and recent legislative attempts to ban abortion in the state.
The South Dakota Board of Regents, whose members are appointed by the governor, controls the six public universities in the state. South Dakota State University, in Brookings, is the largest university in the state, with an enrollment of 11,377. The University of South Dakota, in Vermillion, is the state's oldest university, and has the only schools of law and medicine in South Dakota. Rapid City's South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is renowned as a prestigious engineering school and is the only school in the state to feature geology. South Dakota also has several private universities, the largest of which is Augustana College in Sioux Falls.
South Dakota has the largest U.S. population of Hutterites, who originally emigrated from Ukraine in 1874, left en masse for Canada in 1918 following persecution over their pacifist religious beliefs, and partially returned in the 1930s.
The largest and most complete fossil of Tyrannosaurus rex ever found was uncovered near Faith in 1990. Named "Sue," the remains are over 90% complete and are currently on display at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.