Wounded Knee and Beyond: SD Native American RV Itinerary
If you have a few days to spend in your RV camper and want to give yourself a real treat, you can’t make a better choice than to enjoy the rolling plains, majestic mountains, and Native American cultural history of South Dakota. Exploring the tribal lands of the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota Indians is a magical adventure not only rich in history but also breathtakingly beautiful. Along the way there are numerous places to stop, things to do, and sights to see. Here is a suggested itinerary that will take you through many of the reservations and tribal lands of Sioux Nation.
We begin our journey in the Black Hills at the western end of the state where we find Keystone, site of one of our most famous national landmarks, Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Here we join the millions of visitors who come from across the country and around the world to visit this noted symbol of America. Then we hop in our RV and travel south along Interstate 385, almost to the Nebraska border, where we hook onto Route 18, also known as the Oyate Trail, for our journey east. First stop: the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Home of the Oglala Lakota Tribe, the reservation covers about 11,000 square miles and contains the battleground of Wounded Knee, site of the Indian massacre and last major battle of the Indian wars. There is a museum and Memorial Site to honor the victims (there are actually two Wounded Knee museums, located about 60 miles apart; one of them is located in the town of Wall and the other at the Oglala Lakota College in Kyle). For hiking, camping, and much more, we follow up with a visit to Badlands National Park. Those who enjoy trying their luck at the gaming tables and slot machines can pay a visit to the Prairie Wind Casino, located on the western edge of the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Continuing east along the Oyate Trail, we next encounter the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Here we are captivated by some breathtaking scenery, including large areas of Ponderosa Pine forest scattered within the grasslands. The drive itself is a treat, but we also have a couple of interesting stops along the way. The Sicangu Heritage Center at Sinte Gleska University, located in the small community of Antelope, houses the official archives of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Need a little rest and relaxation? Well, there’s plenty of it available, along with camping, hiking, and picnic facilities, at Ghost Hawk Park in Crazy Horse Canyon.
The Oyate Trail meanders along eastward and we eagerly follow along on our trek across the southern edge of South Dakota, all the way to the western bank of the Missouri River, where we encounter the Yankton Tribal Lands. A person could spend hours here just soaking in the beauty of the surrounding shoreline, or instead head slightly north to the Lake Andes Natural Wildlife Refuge to observe wildlife and waterfowl in their natural habitat. Those who enjoy gambling can make a stop at the Fort Randall Casino, adjacent to the nearby town of Wagner.
A glance at our itinerary tells us that it’s now time to say farewell to the Oyate Trail and head northwest along a connecting trail, the Native American Scenic Byway. And “scenic” is very definitely the right word to describe this trail, which follows the Missouri River and winds its way through South Dakota’s prairie grass country. Elk, bison, deer, and prairie dogs are just some of the sights we see as we head through the Lower Brule and Crow Creek Indian Reservations. Lower Brule is home to Lakota Foods, the production and marketing outlet of the tribal farm, whose popcorn and other delights are known throughout the country. Visitors to Crow Creek can enjoy a wide variety of activities, including boating, fishing, swimming, and camping along the water’s edge.
As we travel further north, we encounter the Cheyenne River Reservation. Here we can visit the Timber Lake and Area Museum, which offers us a glimpse of local Native American history and culture along with a collection of marine fossils native to South Dakota. After passing the Cheyenne Reservation, we continue northward, getting closer to the North Dakota border, and also closing in on the end of our journey. But our final stop is an interesting one: the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Covering a total of more than 3,000 square miles, Standing Rock is the fifth largest reservation in the U.S. And there is plenty to see and do. In the community of Mobridge we find the Sitting Bull Monument, gravesite of the legendary Sioux Indian Chief. Nearby stands a monument honoring Sakakawea, the Shoshone woman who traveled with explorers Lewis and Clark. For a mix of culture and recreation, we can enjoy the Lewis and Clark Legacy Nature Trail, a three mile trail for walking, hiking, or biking; replete with markers identifying natural plants and area wildlife. More recreation in the form of fishing, boating, and water sports can be had on Lake Oahe, near the North Dakota border.
Getting away from it all is one thing, but immersing yourself in a world you may never have known even existed—a world of fascinating art, culture, scenery, and fun—is a treat beyond belief. There is such a world. It is real and it is located in the wonderful state of South Dakota. Hop in that RV and transport yourself to that magical world.
About the Author
Joe Laing is the Marketing Director for El Monte RV Rentals. Be sure to check out their new Professional Football (NFL) Tailgating and RV Tailgating to College Football Games pages in preparation for the upcoming seasons.