Bike Touring in South Dakota? …Here is a Reading List!
If you’ve never thought about biking in South Dakota, join the club! … but after learning a little more about it’s history you will realize that South Dakota is one of America’s best kept secrets!
Fossils, Mining & Native American Legends
Expansive fossil beds, Historic Mining Towns, Native American Legends, American Folk Hero’s, and boundless Outdoor Recreation … South Dakota has it all, and then some! If you are a history buff, or just have a feigning interest in the past, there are so many great resources out there to stir your thirst for South Dakota! Here’s a terrific reading list to get the most out of your South Dakota Bike Tour.
I love Native American History, and try to soak up as much information as I can. If you’re like me and want to learn more about the deep Native American roots in South Dakota, I have dug-up a few really great books that are easy and interesting reads. The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend by Bob Drury & Tom Clavin is a great read about the triumphant Ogala Lakota Leader and Warrior Red Cloud.
With the depth of Native American history in South Dakota (Nine tribes call South Dakota home), you probably guessed that there had to be some epic battles when American’s started trickling over and up into their territories … you are right! The Great Sioux War, The Lakota War, and The Battle of Little Bighorn all took place in South Dakota.
Bloodshed when White American’s threatened Native Land
After gold was found on Native Land in the Black Hills, it wasn’t long before white American’s ignored treaties and began taking the region by force. A great book about how Native American culture and the culture of the early West differed, I suggest Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors by Stephen E. Ambrose. Ambrose gives you a duel biography of the two legendary men, investigating their often overlooked similarities and obvious differences along the way. This book dives deep into the lives of the controversial Native American leader Crazy Horse and Historical Icon George Custer.
The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick is another great book depicting the clash between Native American culture and white culture. Philbrick focuses on the events leading up to and surrounding Custer’s Last Stand, one of the most well-know events in Early American history.
Gold brings violence to South Dakota
The Black Hills Gold Rush in the late 19th Century brought riches to few, but crime and lawlessness to the whole state. Just like any person trying to make a quick buck during hard times, the south dakota gold rush saw an influx of fast-handed criminals snake their way into the area.
Former Lakota and Sioux territories .. once people heard stories of digging up gold, the landscape quickly changed from expansive prairie to shanty towns full of brothels and bars. Bad Boys of the Black Hills… And Some Wild Women, Too by Barbara Fifer is a treasure trove of South Dakota folklore. Unlike other tales of the “Wild West”, Barbara does not focus on the characters that we all know, like Wild Bill & Calamity Jane. Although she acknowledges their historical significance, this book really tells the stories of those characters we never learned about in school.
South Dakota & Prohibition.
Another surprising fact I discovered whilst researching South Dakota’s history, was their interesting Prohibition story. South Dakota passed strict Prohibition laws in 1917, making the sale, manufacture and distribution of alcohol illegal in the state .. this is more than two years before the United States Government introduced the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.
But that wasn’t the first time “dry” laws were proposed in the Dakota territory … In 1890 the first “dry” laws were passed by the people, and five years later they repealed it. Then in 1917 South Dakota re-instated their prohibition laws, but by then, the hard-working, rural American’s of the South Dakota territory were basically living off the stuff. Just about every town and village had an illegal alcohol operation .. and in the Black Hills, in the lawless town of Deadwood, business was booming with or without prohibition. Chuck Cecil’s Prohibition in South Dakota: Astride the White Mule is an intoxicating story of South Dakota’s Prohibition Era .. a time of prostitutes and gamblers, moonshiners and bootleggers and lot of violence.
If textbooks and trail guides are what you are looking for …
A Trail Guide for the Mickelson Trail in the Black Hills, SD 3rd edition by Aleen Golis is a great tool for hiking or biking the Mickelson Trail. Inside, you will find pictures, detailed descriptions and even some local history for each leg of the 109 miles of the Big Mick Trail. And in my opinion, those 109 miles are best enjoyed in a bicycle seat rather than in walking shoes .. taking a bike tour of the Black Hills of South Dakota would be the trip of a lifetime.
Mount Rushmore & the Black Hills: Including the Badlands (Moon Handbooks) by Laural A. Bidwell is another great tool to read through before visiting South Dakota. Not only detailing biking and hiking trails in/around Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills Nat’l Forest, it also has lots of information about Badlands Nat’l Park. Sprawling grasslands and steep canyons compete for dominance, and create challenging terrain with big rewards for those tackling the landscape by bike.
by Lauren Brown
If you want to experience the sights, sounds, culture and geography of a place, what better way than from the saddle of a bike?
All Wilderness Voyageurs tours are fully supported with a SAG vehicle and include beautiful routes through stunning landscapes, excellent food and accommodations, top rate equipment, dedicated and enthusiastic guides.
Give our wonderful reservation staff a call to book your next bike tour vacation. (800) 272 – 4141.