South Dakota

Cities

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Nevada

Nevada is a state in the Western region of the United States. It is bordered by Oregon to the northwest, Idaho to the northeast, California to the west, Arizona to the southeast, and Utah to the east. Nevada is the 7th-most extensive, the 32nd-most populous, and the 9th-least densely populated of the U.S. states. Nearly three-quarters of Nevada’s people live in Clark County, which contains the Las Vegas–Paradise metropolitan area, including three of the state’s four largest incorporated cities. Nevada’s capital is Carson City while the largest city is Las Vegas.

Geography

South Dakota is in the north-central United States, and is considered a part of the Midwest by the U.S. Census Bureau; it is also part of the Great Plains region. The culture, economy, and geography of western South Dakota have more in common with the West than the Midwest. South Dakota has a total area of 77,116 square miles (199,730 km2), making the state the 17th largest in the Union.

Black Elk Peak, formerly named Harney Peak, with an elevation of 7,242 ft (2,207 m), is the state’s highest point, while the shoreline of Big Stone Lake is the lowest, with an elevation of 966 ft (294 m). South Dakota is bordered to the north by North Dakota; to the south by Nebraska; to the east by Iowa and Minnesota; and to the west by Wyoming and Montana. The geographical center of the U.S. is 17 miles (27 km) west of Castle Rock in Butte County. The North American continental pole of inaccessibility is between Allen and Kyle, 1,024 mi (1,648 km) from the nearest coastline. The Missouri River is the largest and longest river in the state. Other major South Dakota rivers include the Cheyenne, James, Big Sioux, and White Rivers. Eastern South Dakota has many natural lakes, mostly created by periods of glaciation. Additionally, dams on the Missouri River create four large reservoirs: Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe, Lake Francis Case, and Lewis and Clark Lake.

Regions and Geology

South Dakota can generally be divided into three regions: eastern South Dakota, western South Dakota, and the Black Hills. The Missouri River serves as a boundary in terms of geographic, social, and political differences between eastern and western South Dakota. The geography of the Black Hills, long considered sacred by Native Americans, differs from its surroundings to such an extent it can be considered separate from the rest of western South Dakota. At times the Black Hills are combined with the rest of western South Dakota, and people often refer to the resulting two regions divided by the Missouri River as West River and East River. Eastern South Dakota generally features higher precipitation and lower topography than the western part of the state. Smaller geographic regions of this area include the Coteau des Prairies, the Dissected Till Plains, and the James River Valley. The Coteau des Prairies is a plateau bordered on the east by the Minnesota River Valley and on the west by the James River Basin. Further west, the James River Basin is mostly low, flat, highly eroded land, following the flow of the James River through South Dakota from north to south. The Dissected Till Plains, an area of rolling hills and fertile soil that covers much of Iowa and Nebraska, extends into the southeastern corner of South Dakota. Layers deposited during the Pleistocene epoch, starting around two million years ago, cover most of eastern South Dakota. These are the youngest rock and sediment layers in the state, the product of several successive periods of glaciation which deposited a large amount of rocks and soil, known as till, over the area.

Ecology

Much of South Dakota (except for the Black Hills area) is dominated by a temperate grassland biome. Although grasses and crops cover most of this region, deciduous trees such as cottonwoods, elms, and willows are common near rivers and in shelter belts. Mammals in this area include bison, deer, pronghorn, coyotes, and prairie dogs. The state bird, the ring-necked pheasant, has adapted well to the area after being introduced from China. Growing populations of bald eagles are spread throughout the state, especially near the Missouri River. Rivers and lakes of the grasslands support populations of walleye, carp, pike, bass, and other species. The Missouri River also contains the pre-historic paddlefish.

Due to a higher elevation and level of precipitation, the Black Hills ecology differs significantly from that of the plains. The mountains are thickly blanketed by various types of pines, including ponderosa and lodgepole pines, as well as spruces. Black Hills mammals include deer, elk (wapiti), bighorn sheep, mountain goats, pine marten, and mountain lions, while the streams and lakes contain several species of trout.

Climate

South Dakota has a continental climate with four distinct seasons, ranging from cold, dry winters to warm and semi-humid summers. During the summers, the state’s average high temperature is often close to 90 °F (32 °C), although it cools to near 60 °F (16 °C) at night. It is not unusual for South Dakota to have severe hot, dry spells in the summer with the temperature climbing above 100 °F (38 °C) several times a year. Winters are cold with January high temperatures averaging below freezing and low temperatures averaging below 10 °F (−12 °C) in most of the state. The highest recorded temperature is 120 °F (49 °C) at Usta on July 15, 2006 and the lowest recorded temperature is −58 °F (−50 °C) at McIntosh on February 17, 1936.

Average annual precipitation in South Dakota ranges from semi-arid conditions in the northwestern part of the state (around 15 inches or 380 mm) to semi-humid around the southeast portion of the state (around 25 inches or 640 mm), although a small area centered on Lead in the Black Hills has the highest precipitation at nearly 30 inches (760 mm) per year. South Dakota summers bring frequent, sometimes severe, thunderstorms with high winds, thunder, and hail. The state’s eastern part is often considered part of Tornado Alley, and South Dakota experiences an average of 30 tornadoes each year. Severe blizzards and ice storms often occur during winter.

National Parks and Monuments

South Dakota has several sites administered by the National Park Service. Two national parks have been established in the state, both in its southwestern region. Wind Cave National Park, established in 1903 in the Black Hills, has an extensive cave network and is home to a large herd of bison. Badlands National Park was established in 1978, and features an eroded, brightly colored landscape surrounded by semi-arid grasslands. Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills was established in 1925. The sculpture of four U.S. Presidents was carved into the mountainside by sculptor Gutzon Borglum.

Other areas managed by the National Park Service include Jewel Cave National Monument near Custer, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, which features a decommissioned nuclear missile silo and a separate missile control area several miles away, and the Missouri National Recreational River. The Crazy Horse Memorial is a large mountainside sculpture near Mount Rushmore being built using private funds. The Mammoth Site near Hot Springs is another privately owned attraction in the Black Hills. It is a working paleontological dig and has one of the world’s largest concentrations of mammoth remains.

Demographics

Population

According to the 2020 census, the population of South Dakota was 886,667 on April 1, 2020, an 8.90% increase since the 2010 United States census, only North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming have fewer residents. As of 2020, South Dakota had an estimated population of 886,667, an increase of 72,487, or 8.90%, since the year 2010. 7.3% of South Dakota's population was reported as under 5, 24% under 18, and 14.3% were 65 or older.

Females made up approximately 50.2% of the population. As of the 2000 census, South Dakota ranked fifth-lowest in the nation in population and population density. Of the people residing in South Dakota, 65.7% were born in South Dakota, 31.4% were born in another U.S. state, 0.6% were born in Puerto Rico, U.S. Island areas, or born abroad to American parent(s), and 2.3% were born in another country. The center of population of South Dakota is in Buffalo County, in the unincorporated county seat of Gann Valley.

Ethnicity

Ethnically, 2.7% of South Dakota's population was of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin (they may be of any race). As of 2011, 25.4% of South Dakota's population younger than age 1 were minorities, meaning they had at least one parent who was not non-Hispanic white. As of 2000, the five largest ancestry groups in South Dakota are German (40.7%), Norwegian (15.3%), Irish (10.4%), Native American (8.3%), and English (7.1%). American Indians, largely Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota (Sioux), are predominant in several counties and constitute 20 percent of the population in West River. The seven large Indian reservations in the state occupy an area much diminished from their former Great Sioux Reservation of West River, which the federal government had once allocated to the Sioux tribes. South Dakota has the third-highest proportion of Native Americans of any state, behind Alaska and New Mexico.

Five of the state's counties are wholly within the boundaries of sovereign Indian reservations. Because of the limitations of climate and land, and isolation from urban areas with more employment opportunities, living standards on many South Dakota reservations are often far below the national average; Ziebach County ranked as the poorest county in the nation in 2009. The unemployment rate in Fort Thompson, on the Crow Creek Reservation, is 70%, and 21% of households lack plumbing or basic kitchen appliances. A 1995 study by the U.S. Census Bureau found 58% of homes on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation did not have a telephone. The reservations' isolation also inhibits their ability to generate revenue from gaming casinos, an avenue that has proved profitable for many tribes closer to urban centers.

Languages

In 1995 the legislature passed a law to make English the “common language” of the state. Since 2019, “the language of the Great Sioux Nation, comprised of three dialects, Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota” is the official indigenous language. As of the 2000 census, 1.90% of the population age 5 or older speak German at home, while 1.51% speak Lakota or Dakota, and 1.43% Spanish. As of 2010, 93.46% (692,504) of South Dakota residents age 5 and older spoke English as their primary language. 6.54% of the population spoke a language other than English. 2.06% (15,292) of the population spoke Spanish, 1.39% (10,282) spoke Dakota, and 1.37% (10,140) spoke German. Other languages spoken included Vietnamese (0.16%), Chinese (0.12%), and Russian (0.10%).

Growth and Rural Flight

Over the last several decades, the population in many rural areas has declined in South Dakota, in common with other Great Plains states. The change has been characterized as "rural flight" as family farming has declined. Young people have moved to cities for other employment. This trend has continued in recent years, with 30 of South Dakota's counties losing population between the 1990 and the 2000 census. During that time, nine counties had a population loss of greater than 10%, with Harding County, in the northwest corner of the state, losing nearly 19% of its population. Low birth rates and a lack of younger immigration has caused the median age of many of these counties to increase. In 24 counties, at least 20% of the population is over the age of 65, compared with a national rate of 12.8%.

The effect of rural flight has not been spread evenly through South Dakota, however. Although most rural counties and small towns have lost population, the Sioux Falls area, the larger counties along Interstate 29, the Black Hills, and many Indian reservations have all gained population. As the reservations have exercised more sovereignty, some Sioux have returned to them from urban areas. Lincoln County near Sioux Falls was the seventh fastest-growing county (by percentage) in the United States in 2010. The growth in these areas has compensated for losses in the rest of the state. South Dakota's total population continues to increase steadily, albeit at a slower rate than the national average.

Religion

The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2010 were the Roman Catholic Church with 148,883 members; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) with 112,649 members; and the United Methodist Church (UMC) with 36,020 members. (The ELCA and UMC are specific denominations within the broader terms ‘Lutheran’ and ‘Methodist’, respectively.) The results of a 2001 survey, in which South Dakotans were asked to identify their religion, include:

Economy

The current-dollar gross state product of South Dakota was $39.8 billion as of 2010, the fifth-smallest total state output in the U.S. The per capita personal income was $38,865 in 2010, ranked 25th in the U.S., and 12.5% of the population was below the poverty line in 2008. CNBC’s list of “Top States for Business for 2010” has recognized South Dakota as the seventh best state in the nation. In July 2011, the state’s unemployment rate was 4.7%.

The service industry is the largest economic contributor in South Dakota. This sector includes the retail, finance, and health care industries. Citibank, which was at one time the largest bank holding company in the United States, established national banking operations in South Dakota in 1981 to take advantage of favorable banking regulations. Government spending is another important segment of the state’s economy, providing over ten percent of the gross state product. Ellsworth Air Force Base, near Rapid City, is the second-largest single employer in the state.

Transportation

South Dakota has 83,609 miles (134,556 km) of highways, roads, and streets, along with 679 miles (1,093 km) of interstate highways. Two major interstates pass through South Dakota: Interstate 90, which runs east and west through the southern half of the state; and Interstate 29, running north and south in the eastern portion of the state. The I-29 corridor features generally higher rates of population and economic growth than areas in eastern South Dakota further from the interstate.

Also in the state are the shorter Interstates 190, a spur into central Rapid City, and 229, a loop around southern and eastern Sioux Falls. Several major U.S. highways pass through the state. U.S. routes 12, 14, 16, 18 and 212 travel east and west, while U.S. routes 81, 83, 85 and 281 run north and south. South Dakota and Montana are the only states sharing a land border that is not traversed by a paved road.

Railroads have played an important role in South Dakota transportation since the mid-19th century. Some 4,420 miles (7,110 km) of railroad track were built in South Dakota during the late 19th century and early 20th century, but only 1,839 miles (2,960 km) are active. BNSF Railway is the largest railroad in South Dakota; the Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern Railroad (formerly the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern) is the state’s other major carrier. Other state carriers include Dakota Southern Railway, Dakota and Iowa Railroad, Ellis and Eastern Railroad, Sunflour Railroad, Canadian Pacific Railway, and the Sisseton Milbank Railroad. Rail transportation in the state is mostly freight, but there are two passenger heritage railroads: the Black Hills Central and the Prairie Village, Herman, and Milwaukee. However, South Dakota is one of the two contiguous states that lack Amtrak service. (South Dakota is the only contiguous state that never had Amtrak—Wyoming used to be served by the San Francisco Zephyr and the Pioneer.)

Culture

South Dakota’s culture reflects the state’s American Indian, rural, Western, and European roots. A number of annual events celebrating the state’s ethnic and historical heritage take place around the state, such as Days of ’76 in Deadwood, Czech Days in Tabor, and the annual St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo festivities in Sioux Falls. The various tribes hold many annual pow wows at their reservations throughout the state, to which non-Native Americans are sometimes invited. Custer State Park holds an annual Buffalo Roundup, in which volunteers on horseback gather the park’s herd of around 1,500 bison.

Black Elk (Lakota) was a medicine man and heyokha, whose life spanned the transition to reservations. His accounts of the 19th-century Indian Wars and Ghost Dance movement, and his deep thoughts on personal visions and Native American religion, form the basis of the book Black Elk Speaks, first published in 1932. (Among several editions, a premier annotated edition was published in 2008.) Paul Goble, an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, was based in the Black Hills from 1977.

Cities and Towns

Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota, with a 2010 population of 153,888, and a metropolitan area population of 238,122. The city, founded in 1856, is in the southeast corner of the state. Retail, finance, and healthcare have assumed greater importance in Sioux Falls, where the economy was originally centered on agri-business and quarrying. Rapid City, with a 2010 population of 67,956, and a metropolitan area population of 124,766, is the second-largest city in the state. It is on the eastern edge of the Black Hills, and was founded in 1876. Rapid City’s economy is largely based on tourism and defense spending, because of the proximity of many tourist attractions in the Black Hills and Ellsworth Air Force Base.

The next eight largest cities in the state, in order of descending 2010 population, are Aberdeen (26,091), Brookings (22,056), Watertown (21,482), Mitchell (15,254), Yankton (14,454), Pierre (13,646), Huron (12,592), and Vermillion (10,571). Pierre is the state capital, and Brookings and Vermillion are the locations of the state’s two largest universities (South Dakota State University and University of South Dakota, respectively). With a population of about 14,000, Pierre is the second smallest state capital in the United States. Of the ten largest cities in the state, only Rapid City is west of the Missouri River.

Media

South Dakota’s first newspaper, the Dakota Democrat, began publishing in Yankton in 1858. Today, the state’s largest newspaper is the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, with a Sunday circulation of 63,701 and a weekday circulation of 44,334. The Rapid City Journal, with a Sunday circulation of 32,638 and a weekday circulation of 27,827, is South Dakota’s second largest newspaper. The next four largest newspapers in the state are the Aberdeen American News, the Watertown Public Opinion, the Huron Plainsman, and the Brookings Register. In 1981, Tim Giago founded the Lakota Times as a newspaper for the local American Indian community on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The newspaper, now published in New York and known as Indian Country Today, is available in every state in the country. The Sioux City Journal also covers parts of South Dakota.

There are nine television stations broadcasting in South Dakota; South Dakota Public Television broadcasts from a number of locations around the state, while the other stations broadcast from Sioux Falls or Rapid City. The two largest television media markets in South Dakota are Sioux Falls-Mitchell, with a viewership of 246,020, and Rapid City, with a viewership of 91,070. The two markets rank as 114th and 177th largest in the United States, respectively. The state’s first television station, KELO-TV, began airing in Sioux Falls in 1953. Among KELO’s early programs was Captain 11, an afternoon children’s program. Captain 11 ran from 1955 until 1996, making it the nation’s longest continuously running children’s television program.

Media

As of 2006, South Dakota has a total primary and secondary school enrollment of 136,872, with 120,278 of these students being educated in the public school system. There are 703 public schools in 168 school districts, giving South Dakota the highest number of schools per capita in the United States. The current high school graduation rate is 89.9%, and the average ACT score is 21.8, slightly above the national average of 21.1. 89.8% of the adult population has earned at least a high school diploma, and 25.8% has earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. South Dakota’s 2008 average public school teacher salary of $36,674 was the lowest in the nation (national average was $52,308). In 2007 South Dakota passed legislation modeled after Montana’s Indian Education for All Act (1999), mandating education about Native American tribal history, culture, and heritage in all the schools, from pre-school through college, in an effort to increase knowledge and appreciation about Indian culture among all residents of the state, as well as to reinforce Indian students’ understanding of their own cultures’ contributions.

The South Dakota Board of Regents, whose members are appointed by the governor, controls the six public universities in the state. South Dakota State University (SDSU), in Brookings, is the state’s largest university, with an enrollment of 12,831. The University of South Dakota (USD), in Vermillion, is the state’s oldest university, and has South Dakota’s only law school and medical school. South Dakota also has several private universities, the largest of which is Augustana University in Sioux Falls.

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