Black Hills Trail

A multiuse trail could be developed on the railroad right of way owned by the State of South Dakota. The right of way parallels I-90, connecting the Black Hills to the rest of the state.

The trail could be a major tourism focus for the central part of South Dakota. The trail could accommodate horses, hikers, bikers, dirt bike riders, and off the road vehicles. Users of the trail could start anywhere on the trail, and ride / hike to the Black Hills.

Motels, Bed and Breakfasts, restaurants and other businesses could benefit from use of the trail. Hikers and horseback riders would start at the east end of the trail and use local campgrounds, motels, and restaurants as they proceeded west to the Black Hills.

Current and future rail use for the corridor would be preserved. There is ample room within the right of way for multiple uses. Trails have been constructed in numerous areas adjacent to railroad tracks.

The trail could support tourism, economic development, and recreation. It could put the Prairie portion of the State "On the Map".


The Black Hills Trail name is a good one, emphasizing the connection of the rest of South Dakota to its chief tourist attraction. But many other names are possible.

Prairie Trail
Dakota Trail
Lakota Trail
Bad Lands Trail
Gold Strike Trail
Dances with Wolves Trail


Improvements to the trail could very minimal.  The right of way could be designated as a trail with virtually no improvements.  Existing grass areas would be used by hikers and horses and off road vehicles.

Some investment would be best, however. The trail portion of the right of way could be mowed and any obstacles removed.  Signage directing people to the trail could be employed. And the trail could be marketed with other South Dakota attractions.


The idea should be discussed among citizens and governmental and business leaders. If there is sufficient interest, the State should develop a brief study examining the potential of the use of the right of way for the trail. The study would examine the feasibility of the trail, and its likely impacts on recreation, tourism, and the local economy.

Please send your comments or suggestions to:

JULY 15, 2010


Tourism is important to the economy of South Dakota. It stimulates the local economy by bringing outside dollars into the area. Tourism brings jobs and makes the State and region less dependent on agriculture.

A wide array of tourist attractions have developed in the Black Hills and along the entire length of I-90.  These tourist attractions attempt to claim a share of the expendable income of tourists travelling through the area.

A central problem of small South Dakota towns is attracting the tourist from I-90 into the community.  The business establishments are not readily apparent from the interstate. A stronger focus on attracting traffic from the interstate is required.

The purpose of this report will be suggest some tourism development activities that might attract additional traffic to the community. A few possible products are also discussed. The report is prepared as a community service for the Great Plains Prairie region of South Dakota.

A critical mass of attractions are also required to successfully attract tourists.  There needs to be a few more things to do in town if tourists are to be persuaded to leave the interstate and stay in the community overnight.

Most of the tourist traffic is passing through the great plains enroute to the Badlands and the Black Hills and points west.  The view of most tourists is simply to pass through the great plains.  Even the State of South Dakota reinforces this thought.  The tourist brochures and kiosks at rest stops show beautiful lakes, mountains, and bad lands, but ignore the most predominate feature of the state, the prairie.

Most of the tourist attractions developed by local entrepreneurs along I-90 have aimed at items not directly related to the prairie. This should not be, since many tourists are interested in the old west, including cowboys, Native Americans, ranches, cattle, etc.  Very few tourist attractions in the west river country pay heed to this desire. A focus on emphasizing the prairie and its beauty and historical interest should be made.

Any tourist attraction should attract visual attention from the Interstate. It should also force people to come into town along Route 16 so that they will use the motels, restaurants, and service stations.

The following is a brief discussion of possible tourist development projects that could increase the number of tourists, the amount of time they spend in the Great Plains, and the amount of money they spend.


A visit to a genuine South Dakota ranch could be of substantial interest.  A set of ranch buildings and equipment could be established easily observed from the Interstate and close to an intersection.  

Most people have heard of a dude ranch, but almost no one has stayed at one or even seen one.  The image of a dude ranch is of a somewhat costly vacation where one spends a week riding horses.  This image could be brought down to a more affordable overnighter concept, where an overnight stay in the ranch house could be tied in with a tour of the ranch. 

The ranch should be set up so that people can see cattle, horses, buffalo, antelope, and chickens. A drive through the pasture could be arranged for tourists to drive close to livestock. Cattle guard crossings could let tourists drive their cars through the prairie.  South Dakota residents don't conceive of driving through a pasture as interesting, but it would be very interesting to the average tourist.

Hay stacks for children to climb, and a barn to visit would be desirable. Old equipment could be staged around the buildings for examination. Horse back riding and the rental of all terrain vehicles could also be part of the package, although this would require labor and good liability insurance. Jeep rides and rides on tractors and combines could also be of interest.

The ranch house itself could be used as a Guest House.  In Europe guest houses are quite popular.  The roof of many European Guest Houses are used to paint a sign visible to the Interstate.  The Guest House could be controlled and rented from a nearby motel or business. The use of the house as a guest house with bed and breakfast could enable the facility to be marketed in magazines that now advertise bed and breakfast facilities.

A genuine bunk house type of cabin might also be popular. Families might very well like to stay in a authentic appearing bunk house type cabin. Camping facilities could also be developed.  Tourist could picnic at the ranch for free.  Picnic lunches could be purchased at the facility


Area Golf Courses should also be marketed.  A package deal of room, breakfast, and golf could be used to attract tourists.  The children could visit the ranch and museum with one parent while the other golfed. The low price of the course should also be marketed. 


Day tours of the prairie and ranch country to points of interest could also be conducted. A tour of ghost towns such as Van Metre could be of interest. A tour of an Indian Reservation might prove to be popular. Tours through ranches along Bad River, White River, and Medicine Creek could be implemented. 

A visit to a Norwegian Pioneer Settlement, or Oahe Dam could be popular. A tour looking at South Dakota prairie wildlife and prairie could also be developed. A night tour to look at the stars in a totally dark area could also be an attraction.


A tourist map of attractions in the Prairie area of the State should be developed.  Tourists could follow the map instead of taking a tour. The State of South Dakota should be approached to see if they would assist this effort.  The approach should be that the State should help the west river prairie area develop an improved tourist business. Local business men and historians could provide the information for the map, with the State printing the map and distributing the map at their tourist information centers.


The railroad right of way owned by the State running parallel with I-90 should be developed and marketed.  South Dakota is a tremendous place to jog and bike. The roads travelling along the old Indian trail and the pioneer trail could be marked and marketed as areas to visit with all terrain bicycles, virtually free of traffic.         


The South Dakota Prairie Park could be developed. The State and or Federal Government could develop a Prairie Park to support and encourage tourism in the middle of the  State.


Many of the projects listed in this report could be financed as a standard private for profit venture.  However, a State funded Praire Park could provide a tourism nucleus for the area.  The facility could be set up as a public-private partnership, with both public and private investment and development.

The State should be interested in this concept.  The Black Hills and Badlands are significant tourist attractions, but if Prairie attractions could be properly developed and marketed the State would have a new attraction that could attract new tourism.  It would also encourage tourists to spend one or two extra days in the State, with the resultant stimulus in tourist expenditures.

The SOUTH DAKOTA PRAIRE PARK could be a unique additional attraction to South Dakota.  It would assist in increasing the tourist attractions to the State at a fairly low cost, and provide a logical stop over point for tourists travelling west. 


Signage is of course critical for attracting traffic from I-90 to the community.  The signage must attract attention while not looking cheap or garish.

The Guest House can have the name of the facility painted on the roof of the structure.  This is not the most aesthetically pleasing solution, but exposure to the Interstate is critical. 

The town could also consider painting scenes on buildings, similar to way that the Town of Oberammergou, Germany depicts scenes on buildings.  If this was done well enough it could become a tourist attraction in its own right.

Attractive billboards within a short distance form the Town are of course the most important signage. These billboards should be as attractive as possible, and try to avoid the appearance of tourist ticky tacky.

The old Burma Shave signs were a source of joy for children, and might be a clever way to preserve a historical memory while attracting people to the community.  A set of Burma Shave type signs on either side of the Town with a clever jingle might induce some people to stop out of the nostalgia for the signs. The 

American Safety Razor Company now owns the Burma Shave Brand. They might

 cooperate with and perhaps pay for the program. If they choose not to cooperate a non Burma Shave final sign could be used.

The following is a possible jingle that might be used. The slogan should of course be adjusted to the items actually marketed in Prairie communities/

So you're tired and you're weary

and your eyes are red and bleary      




From the Prairies
To the Mountains
To the Oceans
White with foam

God bless America
South Dakota is our home



Fishing at a Prairie stock dam could also be provided. Simple fishing gear could be sold or provided at a low rental cost.


Hunting has become a major tourist attraction to the State. Hunting should be supported and expanded.


There are a number of museums in the Prairie communities. The low cost of visiting these facilities should be marketed.

Tourism development is important, but the sale and export of locally grown products is also an important aspect of economic development.  By giving a marketing emphasis to some products, substantial additional could be raised.  The product could initially be marketed within Prairie communities, and eventually exported if the product caught on.

The following outlines some of those possible products.



Born and bred in the USA

South Dakota genuine Prairie Buffalo Jerky is made the old fashioned way.  It combines the flavor of great plains bred and raised buffalo into a quality jerky. Quality lean, grass fed buffalo are carefully selected to make a healthful, low fat high protein jerky.  Made and sold in South Dakota.

            (Great Plains Pemmican might also be of interest.  We have no idea what this might taste like or consist of, but it should be made of locally produced products.  


Buy enough genuine South Dakota Prairie Wheat for 200 loaves of bread for only $12.50. This wheat was grown in America on the Prairie Great Plains of South Dakota, USA, in the center of the worlds bread basket. The best wheat is selected to be sold for Prairie South Dakota USA Wheat. Your bread will never be fresher than when baked with South Dakota Prairie Wheat.

(Several recipes for making bread could be included with the wheat.  A pioneer version and a sourdough version could be effective.  A small hand mill for the grinding of the wheat might also sell.)


Every one ignored the prairie dog, until one day Ole Johanssen, Norwegian Pioneer, noticed that the South Dakota Prairie dog not only dug with its paws but with a small corn horn located on the center of its head.  In digging around, archaeologists discovered that an American Indian Tribe, descended from a really lost tribe of Israel and influenced by aliens from outer space, had bred the Prairie Uni Corn Dog to aerate and loosen the prairie soils for spring planting.  The Prairie Uni Corn Dog is not an endangered species, and can be given to your friends who have everything.  It is a safe bet that they do not have a Prairie Uni Corn Dog, and are probably not even aware of this rare and exotic Prairie creature.

         (This product is a take off on the ever popular jackalope.  A stuffed Prairie dog with a corn horn centered on its head could be sold.  A stuffed animal Prairie Uni Corn Dog would be a bigger seller, and would be somewhat less tacky.) And of course a stuffed or ceramic or plastic version of the Prairie Uni Corn Dog could also be marketed.


The intent of this brief plan is to outline some ideas which might be used by entrepreneurs in South Dakota to increase the local tourist dollar and to develop some locally produced products that can increase income to the region.  Many of the ideas outlined here may well not work, and the implementation of the concepts should be carefully thought out to prevent costly failure.  Some of these ideas, however, could and should be implemented, and might eventually lead to success.

This report was produced as a public service by Beth, Louise, Clifford, and Craig Hullinger.  The contents of this plan can be reproduced and used by all persons.

            GOOD LUCK


Pick your own South Dakota wildflowers
Hunt for indian arrow heads
Collect South Dakota rocks for free
Catch a South Dakota frog
Catch a free prairie dog
Gather your own wheat for your own wheat, mill your own wheat  Get a genuine South Dakota tumble weed xmas tree. Decorate     with italian lights and ornaments " balance with     nature-leave the pine trees alone."
Weave your own rug.
Fried indian prairie dog
Drink from an artesian well
Rattlesnake hunt 
Flea market. 
Old cowboy who talks to people market the area
Ida to paint Oberamergou style.
Presho Play House 
Square dance
Indian dance
Sod house
See a real working grain elevator
Train ride
Dakota cowboy auction
Burger king
Scenic garden tour
See the ranch junk yard
Worlds largest South Dakota junk flee market 
Sell a South Dakota ranch (mini ranch 2 square feet)
Hunting lodge
Sell cemetery plots 
Jump off hay mow into freshly cut wheat
Sing a longs: cow boy sing a long
Dam fish camp
Stay in the pioneer dug out.
Wagon ride, hay ride.
Star gazing session.  See the milky way;
Indian cuisine 
Beehive honey choke cherry jelly
Try your hand at milking cows
Home made ice cream
Camp out in the hay mow. 
Gather your own eggs.