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South Dakota: Minuteman Historic Site

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site protects two facilities that were once part of a Minuteman Missile field that covered the far western portion of South Dakota from 1963 through the early 1990s. There were 15 Launch Control Facilities that commanded and controlled 150 Launch Facilities (Missile Silos) holding Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. The missile field was operational, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, for thirty years. Despite the searing summer heat and brutal winter cold of South Dakota, the operational status of the missiles was maintained at all times. Meanwhile, local landowners and members of small towns in the central and northern Great Plains lived literally side by side with nuclear weapons.

During the Cold War thousands of Air Force personnel in Minuteman Missile fields throughout the Great Plains worked and lived around nuclear weapons that held unprecedented destructive power. It was these nuclear weapons that constantly threatened devastation of any aggressor nation that might consider launching a nuclear attack against the United States or its allies. This threat of destruction acted as a deterrent to enemies while paradoxically preserving an uneasy peace.

Planning your visit to Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Location:24545 CottonWood Rd, Philip, SD
Tel:T: (605) 433-5552 
Website:https://www.nps.gov/mimi
Hours:Check the website for current hours
Fees:Delta-01 Tour Fee
$12.00 – Adult age 17 & over
$8.00 – Youth ages 6-16

Best time to visit Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Other places close by worth visiting

1. CUSTER STATE PARK

Custer State Park is famous for its bison herds, other wildlife, scenic drives, historic sites, visitor centres, fishing lakes, resorts, campgrounds and interpretive programs. In fact, it was named as one of the World’s Top Ten Wildlife Destinations for the array of wildlife within the park’s borders and for the unbelievable access visitors have to them.

2. MOUNT RUSHMORE

Mount Rushmore is a relatively recent creation and started as a concept by state historian Doane Robinson in 1923. The choice of artist was Gutzon Borglum, a radical sculptor with a sense of scale and outlandish ambition.

3. THE MAMMOTH SITE

The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, SD is a truly incredible place to visit. We call in every time we are in the area as it is always changing.

Accidently, discovered during a construction project, The dig site is uncommon as the mammoth bones that the excavation has exposed have been left in situ and can be viewed by visitors from raised walkways. It is a most unusual exhibit.

The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs

4. CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL

Brule Lakota Henry Standing Bear was born near Pierre, South Dakota, along the Missouri River around 1874. In 1933 he heard that there were plans to build a monument to his cousin Crazy Horse at Fort Robinson where he had met his end. Standing Bear and the Lakota Sioux were determined that any such monument should be built in the Black Hill mountains of South Dakota which had a spiritual significance to his Nation.

The monument is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain, on land considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota, roughly 17 miles (27 km) from Mount Rushmore. When, and if, it gets finished it will dwarf Mount Rushmore.

5. SOUTH DAKOTA AIR & SPACE MUSEUM

I still get excited when I get the chance to visit a new museum dedicated to air and space, so when I discovered on our journey through South Dakota the South Dakota Air & Space Museum at Ellsworth Airforce Base I jumped at the chance to visit. Like many such aerospace museums, there was plenty of interesting aircraft on display. There are over 30 vintage military aircraft ranging from World War II bombers to the modern-day B-1.

6. BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK

The Lakota gave this land its name, “Mako Sica,” meaning “land bad.” Extreme temperatures, lack of water, and the exposed rugged terrain led to this name. In the early 1900s, French-Canadian fur trappers called it “les mauvais terres pour traverse,” or “bad lands to travel through.”

Located in southwestern South Dakota, Badlands National Park consists of 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires blended with the largest protected mixed-grass prairie in the United States.

7. WALL DRUG STORE

As you travel around America, especially the mid-west you’ll come across billboards advertising the Wall Drug Store. These billboards are located, in some cases, hundreds of miles from the store itself mostly along a 650 mile stretch of I-90. Apparently, there are more than 300 paid for billboards, some located internationally, and a whole load more unofficial billboards.

The store itself has become a popular stop-off point for people travelling through South Dakota or visiting the local attractions such as Badlands National Park or en route to Mount Rushmore.

8. WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK

Regarded as sacred by American Indians, exploration of the the area known a Wind Cave did not begin until 1881, when the entrance was noticed by two brothers, Jesse and Tom Bingham. They heard a loud whistling noise, which led them to a small hole in the ground, the cave’s only natural opening.

Today, you can visit the caves and the beautiful plains on the surface above.

Where to stay?

1. TRIANGLE RANCH B&B

Twenty minutes northeast of the majestic Badlands National Park (of National Geographic Traveler’s Drives of a Lifetime fame) experience the “peace of the prairies” on our multi- generation ranch. Triangle Ranch, named for its horse and cattle brand, was homesteaded in 1904 by Lyndy’s great grandparents. After living in a sod dugout then a log house, they ordered and built the beautiful Sears & Roebuck “Alhambra” Catalog Home in 1923, now known asTriangle Ranch Bed & Breakfast.

2. CEDAR PASS LODGE

Cedar Pass Lodge first opened for business in 1928, predating the establishment of Badlands National Monument by eleven years. Mr. Ben Millard, a local businessman and close friend of Senator Peter Norbeck, started with a dance hall that brought people from a hundred-mile radius to listen to Lawrence Welk and similar bands.

Millard expanded Cedar Pass Lodge to include the dining room, the Historic Cabins, and a counter for curios. He enjoyed giving nightly geology talks to Lodge guests and was awarded the honor and title of the first “interpreter” in Badlands National Park

3. BEST WESTERN PLAINS MOTEL

Seasonal outdoor and indoor pools, both heated, are featured at this motel in Wall. The Minuteman Missile Historic Site is 9 minutes’ drive away. Free WiFi is available.

The Wall Best Western Plains Motel has a games room for entertainment. Guests can relax in the hot tub or take advantage of the on-site fitness center. Vending machines are provided for snacks and refreshments..

Badlands National Park is 7.5 mi from the motel. Shopping at the historic Wall Drug Store is 7 minutes’ walk away.

4. CAMPGROUNDS

For those interested in front-country camping, the park offers two official campgrounds. The Cedar Pass Campground is a paid campground with 96 sites total, some designated for RV camping with electric hookups. Reservations for the Cedar Pass Campground can be made through contacting the Cedar Pass Lodge online or by phone at 877-386-4383. Sage Creek Campground is a free, first-come first-serve campground with 22 sites. Motor homes, pull behind trailers, and other recreational vehicles greater than 18 feet in length are prohibited. To learn more about these campgrounds, visit the front-country camping page.

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