THE ONLY AREA CODE in the state of South Dakota is 605, which makes June 5th (6/05) the perfect day to celebrate The Mount Rushmore State. And, while there may only be a single area code, there are a whole bunch of things to appreciate about South Dakota — from east to west, from the Badlands to the prairie, from the Wild West of Deadwood to the hip, modern city of Sioux Falls.
Here are just a few reasons why we should all be celebrating #605Day:
1. So much of the 605 can be your playground.
The beautiful, wide-open, and natural areas of South Dakota are where the 605 shines. When it comes to mountain biking, climbing, camping, skiing, birding, fishing, or whatever it is that gets your adrenaline going, South Dakota has an almost endless list of places in which to indulge. And the best part? You have it practically all to yourself, with plenty of room at the trailheads and hardly a soul making tracks in front of you.
Flume Trail, for example, is an awesome hike, both for its history and its beautiful Black Hills National Forest scenery. The old flume transported water through a 20-mile route during the mining boom of the 1880s, helping miners uncover more than $20 million in gold. The trail follows the flume bed, passing through several tunnels you’ll have to duck your head to get through. There are many options for shorter hiking loops as well.
A great option for mountain bikers is Storm Mountain. Just outside Rockerville in the Black Hills, the main trail here is a fast and fun loop through classic Black Hills terrain with windy descents, challenging (but short) climbs, and surprise lookout points.
2. One word: Rodeo.
There’s not much sweeter — or more quintessentially South Dakotan — than the thunder of horses entering the arena, with the American flag leading the brigade. Rodeo is the state sport of South Dakota and it draws riders and fans from across the nation…many of them bewildered by how those bull riders manage to keep their hats on.
The Days of ’76 Rodeo in Deadwood is a true highlight of our state sport and was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2011. In late July, you can check out the historic parades, indulge in some ice cream, keep an eye out for the shootout reenactments, and try your luck at the casinos while you’re there, too.
3. Strangers aren’t really strangers here.
Whether on your feet or in the car, it’s the 605 way to say hello or give a little wave to passersby. Even motorcyclists have their own friendly gestures to give a shout-out to fellow riders.
The friendliness doesn’t stop at salutations — say you’re on a road trip, stuck on a prairie backroad with a flat and no jack, not quite sure how to explain where you are to a tow truck. Anywhere else, that might sound like a problem. In South Dakota, however, you can call a friend who calls a friend who calls a cousin who lives down the road and comes to your rescue. It’s the triple-friend membership.
4. Everyone looks good in cowboy boots.
No matter what the season, no matter what the occasion, no matter where you’re going, there are cowboy boots you could be wearing. They fit like a glove. You’ll see why folks live and die in them. Worth braving the summer crowds, Wall Drug offers a quality selection of boots and buckles that’s hard to beat (despite — and because of — the kitsch). But nearly every town in the 605 has a local boot and tack shop where you can find a kickin’ new pair of boots and western wear.
5. Native American art, dance, and music get no more authentic than right here.
South Dakota is home to nine Native American tribes, and you can get a feel for their culture at art galleries and museums — both seasonal and permanent — that focus on the traditional and modern craftsmanship of Native American artisans. Check out Prairie Edge in downtown Rapid City for native art, books, and music, and other South Dakota-made goods. The annual, summer-long Red Cloud Indian Art Show is also worth a stop — it’s hosted by the Red Cloud Indian School and is the largest and longest running show of its kind. Held on the Pine Ridge Reservation southeast of Rapid City, it features 160 American Indian artisans ranging from new artists to seasoned professionals. It’s ten weeks long and is free and open to the public.
The serious #605Day celebrator might be looking for something even more immersive. If this is you, make sure to check out a wacipi, or powwow. The oldest in South Dakota (and the second-oldest in the nation) is the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Wacipi, with 2017 marking their 150th year. It takes place the first weekend in July and is held at the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Ceremonial Grounds in Agency Village in northeastern South Dakota. There are hours of color, dance, and Native American traditions to take in — powwows provide a venue for storytelling through dance and song, and observers are rarely observers for long.
6. History is mammoth here.
Once home to dinosaurs and mammoths, 605 country holds the history of millennia in its soil. Numerous dinosaur fossils have been excavated here — including a Tyrannosaurus rex that’s one of the largest, most complete, and best-preserved specimens ever found.
Consider stopping at the one-of-a-kind Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, which has the largest concentration of Columbian and woolly mammoth fossils in the world, still buried where they died. The current count is at 61 and, yes, that’s only what’s been found so far — the site is still active.
7. This is the home of the national mammal.
The 605 takes pride in the healthy wildlife populations and thriving hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing opportunities on both sides of the Missouri River. South Dakota is home to one of the largest publicly owned bison herds in the world at Custer State Park. Visitors can literally wake up to these incredible animals outside their window or drive along the Wildlife Loop Road, where the 1,300-strong herd roams freely.
While you’ll want to keep a safe distance, both Custer State Park and the adjacent Wind Cave National Park offer amazing bison, elk, prairie dog, and other wildlife watching.
8. “Great Faces, Great Places” is a motto that holds true.
Playing off the faces of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the 605’s slogan, “Great Faces, Great Places,” holds true in more ways than one. Mount Rushmore is the best-known spot in the 605 and needs no introduction. If you’ve seen it in the daylight, definitely catch it at one of the evening lighting ceremonies in the summer — try scampering up a boulder off Iron Mountain Road (Highway 16A) to admire the Presidential faces lit in the distance, while the Black Hills are blanketed in stars.
The other monumental face in the 605 belongs to Crazy Horse. Only 17 miles from Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial is a tribute to the Native American legacy that runs through this state much more deeply than an area code ever could. When complete, it will be the world’s largest mountain carving, standing 563 feet high and 641 feet long.
Not all of our great faces are carved into stone. You’re likely to encounter a smile and a “Howdy!” no matter where you travel in South Dakota. Whether it’s your first or your fiftieth visit to the 605, you’ll probably be treated like a friend from the moment you step out of your car.
9. One area code = a whole spectrum of gorgeous landscapes.
Our history goes back much further than the faces carved into our monuments — millions of years further — and that’s best demonstrated in Badlands National Park. At sunset, watch the stripes in the rocks pop out in vivid colors, lighting up our history layer by layer.
West of the Badlands, you have the forested rise of the Black Hills, the Cathedral Spires of Custer State Park, and the winding gorge of Spearfish Canyon. And that’s all before you hit the rolling, sunflower-covered prairies that spill out across the central and eastern parts of the state. Together, it makes for a true mosaic of terrain, a complex reality that most people don’t think of when they picture South Dakota — all the more reason to celebrate the 605.