Most visitors arrive in Deadwood via Interstate 90, and those approaching from the east skirt the Badlands. Eroded over eons into strange mounds and cliffs with church-like spires, this barren landscape has an eerie beauty.
The foremost tourist site of South Dakota is Mount Rushmore. Ten miles from Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial is being sculpted using detonating cord on, ironically, Custer Mountain. Begun in 1949, it is still a work in progress. The 88-foot head is finished, and there are bus rides to the base of the site. At 641 feet high and 563 feet across, the completed horse and rider will be even bigger than the carvings on Mount Rushmore.
Only three miles from Deadwood is the town of Lead, pronounced leed . The Homestake Gold Mine there closed in 2001. The blasting, drilling, and tunneling that extracted gold ore over more than a hundred years reshaped the mountain on a monumental scale. Tours of the mine are given several times a day in the summer.
For dramatic vistas, I recommend the 22-mile scenic drive north along Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, with its rock formations resembling medieval towers and castles, plus its three waterfalls. There are two good dining possibilities en route. The favorite breakfast spot in these parts is not in Deadwood but at the Cheyenne Crossing Café in Lead. For lunch or dinner after driving through the canyon, drop by the Seven Grill and Soup Shack in Spearfish.
One final suggestion: The Deadwood Thymes restaurant, in Deadwood, offers an eclectic, modern approach to food and has a dining patio for those who like to eat outside.
For more information, contact the South Dakota Department of Tourism (