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The subtle beauty of South Dakota

For many, the geography and geology of South Dakota are unknown or unfamiliar. However, if you look closely, there is subtle beauty all around you. During a recent trip to Rapid City and the Black Hills of Western South Dakota, I took this photo of the prairie east of town as we approached Rapid City Regional Airport. Rapid Creek looks like a ribbon across the prairie as it meanders towards the Cheyenne River:

Rapid Creek

While there was not a lot of snow on the ground, this photo of Stanley County shows the wrinkled nature of the prairie. of Western South Dakota. Many think this land is flat and boring, but this photo reveals contours of the land that often go unnoticed:


Flying over Stanley County

Pactola Reservoir provides more stunning views, even in January when the lake is frozen and provides opportunities for ice fishing. The stunning blue sky and the striking hills behind the lake provide a beautiful backdrop and is a mere 15 miles west of Rapid City.


Pactola Reservoir

The Stratobowl is another interesting geological feature of the Black Hills that is easy to miss if you’re not a local. Situated at the end of a half-mile trail that starts right on Highway 16-A to Keystone and Mount Rushmore, the Stratobowl is a natural bowl that served as a launching pad for the first manned weather balloons to reach the stratosphere in the 1930’s.


Stratobowl between Rapid City and Keystone

Of course, the Black Hills range provides a less subtle and more “in your face” beauty as it rises up from the surrounding prairie. The highest point of the range is the tallest point in elevation between the Rocky Mountains and the Pyrenees in Spain/France. The first photo is from Rapid City Regional Airport. The other photo of the Black Hills range is looking west from Skyline Drive in Rapid City.


Black Hills range from Rapid City Regional Airport

Black Hills from Skyline Drive in Rapid City

Finally, this view from 37,000 feet shows the small cities of Huron (foreground) and Mitchell (background). If you’re viewing this photo from a device that allows you to zoom, take a few moments to zero in on the layout of the towns, the highway that connects these two cities, and Lake Mitchell on the northern edge of Mitchell. Huron is home of the South Dakota State Fair and Mitchell is home of the world’s only Corn Palace.

South Dakota is a land filled with more than you expect, especially if you take the time to slow down and appreciate the beauty of the prairie and Black Hills.


Huron and Mitchell from 37,000 feet

Rapid City, South Dakota, my hometown

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