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
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
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.