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About the Black Hills Area

Geography of the Black Hills
The Black Hills National Forest spans from northeastern Wyoming down into the southwestern region of South Dakota. It is 6,000 square miles of rugged mountains and forested terrain between the Belle Fourche and Cheyenne rivers. The Black Hills were named for their heavily forested slopes, which appear black from a distance. Harney Peak, the highest point of the Black Hills, rises 2,500 feet above the surrounding Great Plains (7,242 feet above sea level).

History of the Black Hills
The region was originally homeland to the Sioux Indians before European settlers arrived in the mid 1700's. French explorers were the first Europeans to arrive in 1742, until Spain acquired sovereignty in 1762.

The land was bought by the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Fur trappers and traders were among the first Caucasians into the area prior to the construction of Fort Randall in 1856. Settlers, railroad companies, and the Native Americans all made use of Black Hills timber for fuel and building materials.

The Dakota Territory proper was created in 1861. Shortly thereafter, in 1874, gold was discovered in the Black Hills during an expedition led by General George Armstrong Custer. Word of the discovery of gold furthered the settlement of the area and, in turn, eventually forced out the remaining Indian population.

The Black Hills area has many natural resources. The Homestake Gold Mine was established in 1876 and became the world's second largest gold mine until it ceased operation in December of 2001. Although the area is known for its gold, the Black Hills' greatest resource is lumber. It is also a major recreational area of the Northern Plains and boasts a host of tourist attractions including one of our nation's most famous landmarks, Mount Rushmore. It was sculpted by Gutzon Borglum, who was a student of the great French artist Auguste Rodin. He began working on Mount Rushmore in 1927, but it was not completed until 1941.

  Dutch Flats is a flatland area of the Black Hills located near Lead, South Dakota.