Black Hills

After the Custer Expedition found gold in the Black Hills in the summer of 1874, miners and prospectors hoping to strike it rich rushed to the area, digging shafts and tunnels in search of the precious metal. Merchants and others quickly followed and established communities. While some of the mining towns still exist and thrive, many others were eventually abandoned and left to crumble.

The Black Hills have long been a tourist destination. In the late 1800s, such places as Evans Plunge in Hot Springs and the various caves and other natural formations brought people to the area searching for adventure, fun and relaxation.

Lakota Strategize For Black Hills Return

Sep 29, 2014
Wikipedia file photo

The fight for the return of the Black Hills to the Lakota people may seem like a lost cause to many…but not for those who claim original rights to the land. We visit with Lakota elders and several of their well-known supporters to discuss the decades-old issue and examine plans to take the battle to the White House.

BH Power Backs Off As Solar Generators Push Fair Rates

Sep 29, 2014

Black Hills Power recently backed down on a plan to increase electricity rates on homeowners who put up solar panels or a wind turbine.

Company officials say people who generate their own power at home and pump it back into the grid don’t pay for the cost of maintaining the power system.

But some of those who generate home power refute this notion.   They say, in every state that boarders South Dakota alternative power generators are paid a fair rate for the electricity they put back into the grid.    

SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray has more.

September's Beetle Killing Cold Snap

Sep 22, 2014

The early September cold snap in the Black Hills was hard on anyone trying to grow tomatoes.  But it turns out the cold may have also been tough on pine beetles.

In the dead of winter pine beetles can survive short periods of -30 to -40 below zero.  
Experts say in early fall the bugs aren’t yet ready for winter and they are much more susceptible to freezing.

Unity Concert For Return Of Black Hills

Sep 19, 2014
Photo by Jim Kent

Hundreds of people from across the country and around the world gathered on a field near Piedmont recently with one goal in mind…returning the Black Hills to the Lakota people. We attend the 2-day “Unity Concert” and speak with music legends, Native activists, tribal elders and international performers to learn why they’ve joined forces in the decades-old cause.

Cold Spurs Peak Colors In Spearfish Canyon

Sep 12, 2014
Jerry Boyer

It's time for a visit to Spearfish Canyon.   The early snow and cold snap are quickening the annual fall colors.

Each year Jerry Boyer a Spearfish resident issues a prediction for the best time to see peak colors in the canyon.    Boyer says right now fall colors are at about 45%.  He says this year the cold has pushed the peak timing up.  

Boyer notes that last year fall colors were near their peak on October 5th when winter storm Atlas dumped up to 5 feet of snow on the Northern Black Hills.  

In 1874, the U.S. Government sent General George Custer on an expedition into the Black Hills to find a location for a new army fort and investigate the area’s natural resources. The confirmation of gold drew thousands of whites into the Black Hills in violation of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie which granted ownership of the Black Hills to the Lakota people.

New Huge Room In Jewel Cave: The Crushing Deep

Sep 2, 2014

Explorers who are pushing the South West Boundary of Jewel Cave in the Black Hills continue to make major advancements after a big breakthrough earlier this year.

At over 170 miles Jewel is the third longest cave in the world – new passageways discovered in May have added almost two more miles to the cave.

In the most recent expedition in August cavers made the six and a half hour trek to the unexplored edge of the cave and pushed into a huge room they named the “Crushing Deep.”


Jenny Braig Paintings Celebrate East And West River

Aug 26, 2014

South Dakota is celebrating 125 years of statehood. SDPB honors that milestone with stories that explore the state’s identity and heritage through unique ideas, people, and places.

In this edition of our series “Landscapes of South Dakota"  SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray Speaks with Spearfish Artist Jenny Braig about her oil paintings that depict both the East and West sides of the state.

Pollution Persists On Spring Creek

Aug 25, 2014

If you were thinking about swimming in Spring Creek between Hill City and  Sheridan Lake -- don’t.

Spring Creek in the Black Hills feeds Sheridan Lake–and for the past few years this upper section of stream has tested positive for e-coli bacteria.   So far the lake itself has remained at safe levels.  

E-coli is an indicator of possible pollution from human or animal waste – and in Spring Creek there are high enough concentrations to exceed the EPA’s threshold for safe swimming.  

SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray has more.

NRC Holds Black Hills Hearings Over Uranium Mine Proposal

Aug 18, 2014

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is holding hearings in the Black Hills this week.

The proceedings center around the proposal  by Azarga Uranium and Powertech USA to mine in the Southern Black Hills.

The NRC is spending time in Hot Springs listening to public testimony on the company’s mining plans.   

The commission is also holding an official hearing in Rapid City.  It is set up similar to a court case where both sides argue points for and against the mining proposal.

Black Hills VA Officials Grilled At Congressional Hearing

Aug 14, 2014

Hundreds of Hot Springs residents turned out for a congressional field hearing on the proposal to close parts of the VA facility there and move some veterans services to Rapid City.

U.S. Congresswoman Kristi Noem joined three other Congressional representatives at the hearing.   Officials with the Veterans Administration testified along with some area residents who are adamantly opposed to the idea of moving the VA.

The growth of modern photography coincided with the settlement of the American frontier. Historical photographs provide a fascinating and sometimes haunting view of the Old West.

A plaque commemorating President Calvin Coolidge's use of the old Rapid City High School as his executive office has been dedicated by Historic Rapid City. The plaque features photos of Coolidge and his wife, Grace, arriving in Rapid City by train and Coolidge on the steps of the school, which has since been torn down. It was from those steps that Coolidge announced that he chose not to run for re-election.

Firearms And Black Hills History

Jun 18, 2014

Kevin Kuchenbecker, Historic Preservation Officer for the City of Deadwood, and Ivan Hovland, a volunteer at the Adams Museum and Deadwood History for almost 20 years, present "Firearms and Black Hills History" during Friday's Picnic on the Lawn at noon Mountain at the Historic Adams House in Deadwood.  Any study of western frontier history would be incomplete without some knowledge of the firearms the pioneers carried and used.  The intention of the presentation is to afford fleeting insights of the types of guns used in the settlement of the Black Hills.

SD Economic Recovery Not Across The Board

Jun 10, 2014

The economic recovery following the 2008 recession is still progressing in South Dakota.   
Overall, the state’s job growth following the recession is above the national average, but some sectors of the state economy still face challenges.
SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray reports on the numbers and on the difficulty some employers face in attracting skilled labor.

Additions To Whitney Preserve

Jun 3, 2014

The public is invited to an open house Saturday from 1:00-10:00 p.m. at The Nature Conservancy's Whitney Preserve.  The Conservancy is celebrating the preserve's 15th anniversary as well as the grand opening of Bev's Bunkhouse, a new multi-purpose facility that will be made available free of charge to students, researchers, conservationists and nature-inspired groups.  Corissa Krueger, program coordinator for The Nature Conservancy, visited about Whitney Preserve and Saturday's open house.

Black Hills Playhouse Previews Summer 2014 Season

May 29, 2014
Visit Rapid City

The Black Hills Playhouse is one of the oldest continuously operating summer stock theaters in the nation. Every summer the playhouse brings artists from all over the nation to create theater productions for residents and people visiting the Black Hills, and educational experiences for students of theatre. The playhouse will present a sneak peak review of the 2014 season on Saturday with the Tatanka Teaser at 2pm and 7:30 pm.

Friends Remember Ruth Ziolkowski

May 22, 2014
Crazy Horse Memorial

Ruth Ziolkowski died last night at the age of 87.  Ziolkowski continued her husband Korczak's dream of honoring Native Americans by carving the likeness of Crazy Horse into the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Under her direction, the Crazy Horse Memorial turned into a national draw.  Jack Marsh, former President and CEO of the Freedom Forum and co-founder of the Crazy Horse Journalism Workshop, and Tim Giago, founder of the Native Sun News and the Native American Journalists Association, shared memories of their friend and colleague, Ziolkowski.

Missing Hunters Found Safe, Alive.

Apr 29, 2014


Two turkey hunters who went missing in the Central Black Hills on Sunday have been found after an extensive search.  74 year old Gary Wipf, and  83 year old Clifford Wipf are reportedly in good condition.

The men were found inside their pick-up truck in the Flag Mountain area, approximately four miles North of Deerfield Lake.  Patty Garland with the Pennington County Sheriffs office says the pair did the right thing by staying inside their vehicle--rather than trying to walk out through deep snow for help.

Search For Missing Black Hills Hunters Underway

Apr 28, 2014

UPDATE:  Two turkey hunters who went missing in the Central Black Hills on Sunday have been found after an extensive search.

74 year old Gary Wipf, and  83 year old Clifford Wipf are reportedly in good condition.

The men were found inside their pick-up truck in the Flag Mountain Area, approximately four miles North of Deerfield Lake.  

Patty Garland with the Pennington County Sherriff’s office says the pair did the right thing by staying inside their vehicle – rather than trying to walk out through deep snow for help.

A Rapid City Red Cross volunteer is in Washington state helping with a devastating mudslide. It happened a week ago Saturday. Now aBlack Hills professor is working with family members and survivors.

South Dakota’s Red Cross volunteers often help with local crises – blizzards, fires, and other extreme circumstances near home. But when major incidents happen, the American Red Cross reaches out across the country to find the right volunteers for people’s needs.

Black Hills Potential For Mudslides

Mar 26, 2014

Officials in Washington State are switching from rescue to recovery mode in the tragic mudslide that buried several homes there late last week.

More than 170 people are still as missing in the disaster.  The death toll stands at over a dozen and is expected to rise.

The Black Hills are not immune these sort of disasters.   Geologists sometimes call these events “debris flows.”  They can move like tsunamis, but with the constancy of wet concrete.  

B-52's Back Over the Black Hills

Mar 25, 2014
U.S. Air Force /Senior Airman Jesse Lopez

If you are old enough to remember the cold war you likely know what a B-52 Bomber looks like.    For years B-52’s were stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City.   The giant bombers were as frequent over the Black Hills as the newer B1’s are today.

B-52’s are returning to the Black Hills next month.

Hell Chicken May Have Roamed Your Backyard

Mar 24, 2014
Courtesy Bob Walters

If you’ve ever crossed paths with an angry rooster you know that chickens can be mean.  But they’re nothing compared to their dinosaur ancestors.    A newly described fossil nicknamed the “chicken from hell” might have lived in your backyard 66-million years ago. 

The fossil resembles a chicken out of a horror movie and it once called South Dakota home.

Here is a link to the published research on the "chicken from hell"


South Dakota lawmakers want to continue efforts to fight Pine Beetles in the Black Hills. Republican State Representative Mike Verchio says this is an ongoing effort to resolve an issue in South Dakota.

"I don’t think many people realize, this is not just a blanket gift to people to go out and cut and chunk their trees. They have to kick in half the cost also and if we don’t continue this fight for at least another couple years, all that money that’s been spent, which is about 9 million dollars at this point, is going to be an absolute [and] total waste," Verchio says.

The House Appropriations committee killed a bill that funds South Dakota’s fight against Pine Beetles. Lawmakers say the bill is duplicate legislation of a separate bill already passed. Larry Mann is a lobbyist with the Black Hills Forest Resource Association. He says SB 28 is also a funding request to fight the Black Hills Pine Beetles.

Lawmakers continue the support to ban the use of explosive Targets in any Black Hills Forest Fire Protection District area. House Bill 1129 passed the South Dakota House on Monday. Republican State Representative Don Kopp says these types of targets are more theatrical then a typical bull’s-eye board.

"These explosive targets known as Binary Targets, is a combination of tannerite and aluminum nitrate and when a bullet hits the target, it explodes," Representative Kopp says.

Spring Flood Risk Above Average

Feb 24, 2014

Officials with the National Weather Service say the Black Hills has an increased chance of flooding this spring.   Heavy rains in the fall coupled with the major October blizzard left behind saturated ground and full reservoirs.   Weather service officials say any extra spring rains could lead to high water.  

Susan Sanders with the National Weather Service in Rapid City says once the weather starts to warm up ice jams could also lead to localized flooding in some areas.