Standing Rock Native American Scenic Byway – SD
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (1998/2005)
- Intrinsic QualitiesCultural, Historic
- LocationSD, ND
- Length316 of 350 total miles
The Native American Scenic Byway showcases wonderful views of the Missouri River, rich landscapes, and tribal histories and cultures. Running north and south through central South Dakota, the National Native American Scenic Byway traverses through the lands of the Yankton, Crow Creek, Lower Brule, Cheyenne River, and Standing Rock Sioux Tribes. Travelers encounter a beautiful mix of prairies and rolling hills that end at limestone cliffs lining the river.
Story of the Byway
The Standing Rock National Native American Scenic Byway crosses the reservations of four tribes of Lakota Sioux: Crow Creek, Lower Brule, Cheyenne River, and Standing Rock.The stories and histories of the tribes are told at the Akta Lakota Museum in Chamberlain, the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre, and the H.V. Johnston Lakota Cultural Center in Eagle Butte. Its many memorial markers, monuments, museums, and sacred sites commemorate the heritage of the Sioux Nation and help travelers hear history from the Native American point of view. Retrace the steps of the famous Meriwether Lewis and William Clark who stopped 14 times along the route during their expedition, and it is documented as the final resting place of Lewis and Clark’s guide, Sakakawea. The area was the home of Lakota spiritual leader Sitting Bull and is the final resting place of Lewis and Clark’s guide Sakakawea. Other famous mountain men like Jim Bridger and Jedediah Smith also passed through.
The scenic byway runs parallel to the Missouri River, with rounded bluffs that make up the eastern border of the Missouri River flood plain. Prairie Knights Marina is located adjacent to Lake Oahe, a 371,000-acre lake on the Missouri River, with public access, electrical RV sites, showers, and a picnic area. With supplies of walleye, trout, and other game fish, Lake Oahe has some of the best fishing in the region. Hiking and mountain biking trails are also accessed at Prairie Knights Marina. Landscapes along the way include mixed-grass prairies and rolling hills that end in limestone cliffs lining the river in many places. An abundance of wildlife, including prairie dogs, pronghorn and deer can be spotted as you travel – not to mention bison and elk herds that are maintained by several tribes.
Herds of colossal bison roaming the vast pastures are likely to cross your path as you continue towards Fort Yates. Fort Yates is a former military post established in 1874. The only original building remaining from the town’s early military days is the Fort Yates Stockade, which is named for Captain George Yates, who met his demise at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. In its time, the fort housed soldiers and for a period, Chief Sitting Bull. While in Fort Yates, pay your respects at Sitting Bull’s original 1890 burial site. Sitting Bull is widely known for his central role in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, his contributions to the traveling Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and his fierce advocacy for his Lakota people.This site is marked and located on the drive into Fort Yates, within one mile of the scenic byway. The Hunkpapa Lakota spiritual leader’s remains were said to have been removed in 1953 to a site across from Mobridge, South Dakota, marked by a stone monument carved by famed sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. That site is located south of Grand River Casino, three miles off the South Dakota portion of the byway. The Sitting Bull Visitor Center also offers travelers useful travel information and a gift shop that sells a variety of authentic Native American arts and crafts and other unique merchandise.
Be sure to pay a visit to the Standing Rock Monument before you leave Fort Yates. The symbolic rock of the legendary petrified form of a woman and her child influenced the name of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, 2.3 million acres of picturesque prairie.
From the Chief Standing Bear Bridge on the Nebraska border to the North Dakota border near Kenel, the byway follows a natural path cut by the Missouri River. Highways 37, 1804, and 50 make up the route from Running Water north to Fort Thompson. The byway crosses the Missouri River on Big Bend Dam at Fort Thompson and follows Highway 1806 to Fort Pierre. The byway then heads west on Highway 34 and north on Highway 63 to Eagle Butte, and continues east on Highway 212, the route gives the option of going north on gravel BIA 7 on the west side of the river or following Highway 83 on the east side. At Mobridge, Highway 1806 again heads north to Kenel.
Points of Interest
Lewis and Clark Legacy Trail
Trail originally mapped by Lewis and Clark, featuring three 1-mile primitive nature trails overlooking beautiful Lake Oahe. Signage is located along the trails identifying plant species and their traditional Native American uses.
Akta Lakota Museum
Located in the heart of St. Joseph’s Indian School in the town of Chamberlain, the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center tells the unique stories of the history of the Northern Plains Indian Tribes through exhibits and programs.
Fort Pierre, SD
In the Fort Pierre area, visit the Casey Tibbs South Dakota Rodeo Center, the Verendrye Monument, the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center, the restored South Dakota State Capitol, and Oahe Dam.
The South Dakota Itinerary
Start in Chamberlain and head north on South Dakota Route 1806. A stop at the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center, which features the art and culture of the Sioux people, is the perfect way to start your journey on the Standing Rock Native American Scenic Byway. You will soon pass through the Crow Creek Indian Reservation.
Stop in Pierre, the state’s capital. Visit the Cultural Heritage Center, where you can learn more about the stories and histories of the tribes. Take the time to stretch your legs and walk around the city. There are many opportunities for shopping or stopping for lunch. From Pierre follow South Dakota Route 34 west toward Hays before going north on South Dakota Route 63. Which will take you up into the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.
In Eagle Butte, stop at the H.V. Johnson Cultural Center, which contains a collection of historical artifacts from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe including murals, old photographs, beadwork, and paintings. As you drive along the byway, keep an eye out for St. Basil’s Church and the Sioux YMCA Camp.
Follow State Route 1806 north towards the North Dakota/South Dakota Border. You will soon reach Mobridge, a small city just south of the border. Pay your respects at the Sitting Bull and Sakakawea monuments. The small Klein Museum is well worth a stop and showcases wonderful artifacts of local history. Visit the Indian Memorial Area and the Bay Marina. Mobridge is a great place to stop for the night before you continue your journey into North Dakota.
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