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Pine Ridge Reservation
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Encompassing a fraction of South Dakota and Nebraska, the Pine Ridge Reservation Destination consists of multiple national forests and natural areas: Badlands National Park, Oglala National Grassland, Nebraska National Forest, Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge, and Wind Cave National Park. The destination’s namesake, Pine Ridge Reservation, covers part of the southwestern corner of South Dakota. On account of the many national forests in the destination, outdoor enthusiasts tend to travel to the region to engage in recreational activities. Nebraska National Forest periodically receives bikers, hikers, campers, hunters, and those who enjoy nature viewing.[5] While outdoor recreation can also be undertaken at Badlands National Park, this park is primarily known for its fossil reports. Throughout the 1840s, Badlands National Park was visited by several trappers and traders who were seeking new fossil discoveries for profit or scientific research.[3] Visitors who take an interest in the destination’s historical sites can find several in Badlands National Park as well as Pine Ridge Reservation.[3][9] The Wounded Knee Massacre Site can inform visitors about the origins of Pine Ridge Reservation and the Native Americans that first resided there. Tourists can also experience Native American culture at the Oglala Lakota Nation Powwow, which involves traditional dancing and singing.[9]

What Pine Ridge Reservation is known for

The Pine Ridge Reservation Destination is located in the Midwestern United States. While the destination itself comprises a portion of South Dakota and Nebraska, the namesake is almost entirely found in South Dakota, with the exception of the city of Whiteclay, Nebraska. Pine Ridge Reservation is an Indian reservation of the Oglala Lakota tribe, presently covering approximately 3,468.86 square miles. Both the destination and the namesake compose a mix of residential communities, urban districts, and natural settings. Pine Ridge Reservation is reportedly home to an estimated total population of 19,779 people as of 2017.[1]

To the west of the Pine Ridge Reservation, a city known as Hot Springs contains numerous tourist attractions. As the name would suggest, the city features six mineral springs that were formed from the Fall River Canyon. The hot springs often pique the interest of visitors; however, the city’s historic district also receives a considerable number of tourists. Boutiques, museums, and restaurants comprise Hot Springs’ historic district, among other historically significant establishments.[13] Moreover, Wind Cave National Park tends to appeal to travelers, as Hot Springs has been deemed the "gateway to the attractions of the southern Black Hills, particularly Wind Cave National Park.”[12]

The city of Hot Springs is about 10 miles southeast of the Angostura Recreation Area.[12] The Angostura Reservoir covers roughly 4,407 acres, and about 36 miles of shoreline comprise the coast of the lake.[10][12] Tourists—especially those who enjoy outdoor activities—frequently visit this site to engage in lake recreation, such as swimming, boating, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boarding. Some of the specific types of fish that visitors may have the opportunity to catch in Angostura Reservoir include smallmouth bass, walleye, crappie, northern pike, perch, largemouth bass, and bluegill. In addition to lake activities, visitors can go camping, bird watching, biking, or picnicking. Equipment for some activities is also provided for park visitors, namely disc golf, an area for volleyball, and horseshoes.[10]


Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge is a particularly notable area in the Pine Ridge Reservation’s southeastern corner. This wildlife refuge is located in the Central Flyway—one of North America’s four major migratory bird flyways. In 1935, Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge was established as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds as well as other wildlife. Several types of birds have been observed in the refuge, such as sandhill cranes, grassland-dependent migratory birds, and shorebirds. Trumpeter swans can also be seen along a 4.5-mile tour route that starts at the refuge’s visitor center.[11]

Outdoor enthusiasts are often drawn to Oglala National Grassland in the western region of the destination. Located in the northwestern corner of Nebraska, Oglala National Grassland is composed of mixed-grass prairies and fairly unique formations that developed through erosion on layers of siltstone. Forested streambeds and clay also constitute a considerable portion of the grasslands. Many of these topographic features can be observed in the Toadstool Geologic Park along its hiking trails. A fair amount of visitors who take an interest in wildlife tend to frequent the area to view the pronghorn sheep that inhabit Oglala National Grassland. Coyotes, badgers, red-tailed hawks, ferruginous hawks, golden eagles, and Swainson’s hawks are other wildlife species that one may encounter in the grasslands. In addition to wildlife viewing, horseback riding and camping are also permitted at Oglala National Grasslands.[4]

Neighboring Oglala National Grassland is Nebraska National Forest in the central western region of the Pine Ridge Reservation Destination. The Pine Ridge Trail system is found within this national forest, with 80 miles of marked trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders to utilize. Hunters are also welcome to pursue game in the Nebraska National Forest, as white-tailed deer, mule deer, and antelope inhabit the region.[5]

Badlands National Park encompasses 244,000 acres of land that is characterized by mixed-grass prairies. The park serves as the home for an abundance of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, bison, black-footed ferrets, and prairie dogs, to name a few. Notably, Badlands National Park “contain[s] one of the world’s richest fossil beds.”[2] The park is acknowledged for having the most substantial deposits of Oligocene mammals known, with its geographic history dating back 33 million years. Beyond the fossils that are found in the park, the site’s topography also includes eroded buttes and pinnacles.[3]

Pine Ridge, a census-designated place in the southwestern corner of the Pine Ridge Reservation, experiences what some have described as “hot and mostly clear” summers. July tends to be the hottest month of the year in Pine Ridge, as temperatures reach an average high of 89°F. The warm season generally lasts from June to September, during which temperatures remain around 79°F. In contrast, winters have been characterized as “freezing, snowy, windy, and partly cloudy,” as Pine Ridge receives the most amount of snow from October to May. The cool season is typically from November to March, with a daily average high dropping below 47°F. December is most commonly the coldest month in Pine Ridge, as temperatures range between 14°F and 38°F. For travelers who are hoping to undertake warm-weather activities in Pine Ridge, it is recommended that they visit from mid-June to early September for moderate climatic conditions.[6]


Throughout the late 19th century, conflicts between the United States and multiple subgroups of the Sioux people arose, causing what is known as the Sioux Wars. The war first began in 1854 when a dispute took place at Fort Laramie in Wyoming.[7] Following the defeat of the Indian tribes in the 1870s, numerous smaller reservations were created in several parts of the United States. Nearly 7.7 million acres of Black Hills land had been confiscated from the Sioux, as the US government designated the Pine Ridge Reservation—a 2.7 million acre site—for the Oglala to live. Over 300 residents were then killed by government troops in 1890 near Wounded Knee Creek—a site that presently commemorates this event.[8] The Wounded Knee Massacre Site currently has an interpretive center and museum where visitors can learn more about this conflict. Another attraction in the Pine Ridge Reservation that honors the Sioux is the Oglala Lakota Nation Powwow and Rodeo, which is an event that features traditional music and cultural dances. This weekend-long celebration is typically held annually in August.[9]

As a prominent paleontological site in the Pine Ridge Reservation Destination, Badlands National Park bears historical significance, with the discovery of fairly large fossilized bones throughout its history. The park’s capability to serve as a fossil resource was made possible through the knowledge of the Native Americans who originally inhabited the area. Fossilized seashells and turtle shells were found by the Lakota, ultimately leading to their accurate presumption that the land had previously been underwater and that these bones belonged to extinct creatures. As such, paleontological interest began in the 1840s, as trappers and traders started to visit the area—traveling from Fort Pierre and Fort Laramie nearly 300 miles away. In an effort to preserve the fossils throughout the site’s natural stone formations, the area was established as a national monument. Since then, the park has received a relatively high quantity of fossil poachers/hunters as well as visitors who intend to search for the park’s fossils for scientific value or financial gain.[3]


Foster's School House Bed & Breakfast is located in a rural area near Crawford, Nebraska, a city on the northwestern side of the state. The establishment has one unit available, which visitors can only reserve the home from the end of April to November. Hunting is a common activity for people who come to the bed and breakfast, and the owners offer some of their acreage for hunting deer and turkeys for a fee. For hunters that return from a successful hunt, an area is set aside specifically for cleaning their game. The property is pet-friendly and allows people to bring their dogs. Patrons can also utilize the barn for stabling their horses during their stay as well. There is a $10 fee, and guests will have to bring their own feed.

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Wolhart’s High Plains Homestead is located just north of Crawford, Nebraska, near the Sidney NE to Deadwood, South Dakota Gold Rush Trail. This route was traveled by thousands in the 1880s seeking their fortune during the Black Hills Gold Rush. The property is centered around an 1880s homesteading town, miles out in the Nebraska Badlands on gravel roads that follow the tracks made by the early homesteaders that claimed the area. This remote location makes this a “destination point”, not a “pass-through” stop according to Heather, one of the property owners. Lodging guests at the Homestead have access to all the buildings in the historic town including a Mercantile filled with local consignment goods, a blacksmith shop filled with period pieces, a fossil shed where rock and fossil hunters work on their finds, and the Deep Creek SchoolHouse. The lodging buildings at the homestead are log structures from the 1880s. Although they were built in the 1880s, there are now private bathrooms in each room, heat, air-conditioning, and electricity. There are RV and tenting options as well. 

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The Alliance Hotel and Suites has fifty-nine rooms varying in size and luxury. Each room has a private air conditioning system, television, coffee maker, microwave, and minifridge. A pool, conference room, and complimentary breakfast are offered to every guest to use, along with free wireless internet. Pets are allowed at the hotel with additional notice. The hotel is six miles from the Alliance Municipal Airport and is located in the center of town. Open year-round, the hotel offers monthly rates for corporate lodging. Many of the guests at the Alliance Hotel and Suites are passing through on road trips where they can park their RVs in the large parking lot at the back of the hotel.

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Our Heritage Guest Ranch

Crawford, Nebraska

Our Heritage Guest Ranch

Jean Norman started Our Heritage Guest Ranch in 1999 and has been operating it since. The property is located on 3,600 acres of land in Crawford, Nebraska, and has a total of 20 beds, all of which are split between two rooms in the cabin, two loft apartments, and three travel trailers. The cabin on the property is open year-round, while the lofts and travel trailers are only open seasonally during the warmer months of the year. Jean notes that the best season of operation for the business is between mid-May to Labor Day. On the property, there are a variety of activities that guests can participate in, such as fossil hunting, stargazing, hiking, and biking, to name a few. The surrounding area has various attractions, namely Fort Robinson, Mount Rushmore, Cascade Falls, Toadstool Geological Park, and Trailside Museum.

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