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Five Important Historical Sites to Visit in South Dakota

1. Geographic Center of the Nation Monument. Located north of Belle Fourche, which is about 13 miles north of Spearfish, in western South Dakota, and serves as a northern gateway to the Black Hills. It has been more than 50 years since the center of the United States was declared in a field on private land 21 miles north of the town of Belle Fourche, found now off of old Highway 85. Before 1959, when Alaska and Hawaii were added to the U.S., a spot in Kansas was the "center" of the U.S., but from 1959 onward, it has been located in Butte County, near the town of Belle Fourche. Many visitors simple stop at the monument site, which is right downtown, and includes the Center of the Nation Visitor Center with a 21-foot diameter granite monument designed in the shape of a compass, with a map of the U.S. Located nearby is the Tri-State Museum. Stay and visit the town, an old fur-trading town named by French explorers. Consider a side trip to the Belle Fourche National Wildlife Refuge and Rocky Point Recreation Area (on the 8,000-acre Belle Fourche Reservoir), just east of town. Learn more at: Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce.

2. Ingalls Homestead. Located in De Smet, in eastern South Dakota, visitors indeed get to step back into history and onto The Little House in the Prairie, where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived from age 13-18. Learn about pioneer prairie history and try your hand at driving the covered wagon or twisting hay sticks. Make a jump rope and a corn cob doll to take home. Participate in the one-room schoolhouse to learn about education in the 1880s. Stop in downtown De Smet to visit several historical Ingall houses, the Loftus Store, the Depot Museum, and the De Smet Cemetery, where numerous Ingalls are buried. You'll also find camping, hotels, and restaurants in town. A visit would not be complete without an outing to the Lake Thompson State Recreation Area (a National Natural Landmark), just to the east of town, which Ingalls named as one of the Twin Lakes in two of her books. Learn more at: Ingalls Homestead.

3. Midnight Star Casino. Located in Deadwood, in the Black Hills of western South Dakota, is the ultimate tourist trap for Kevin Costner and deadwood fans. The working casino is housed in the historic 1979 Phoenix Block Building. The building contains a large selection of Costner memorabilia on each of its three floors, as well as a casino, Diamond Lil's Bar and Grill (with a bar modeled straight from Costner's 1985 movie, Silverado). While visiting, spend time exploring the rest of Deadwood -- an historic frontier town (and Registered National Historic Landmark) known for bigger-than-life personalities such as Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane -- as well as the surrounding Black Hills area. Learn more at: Midnight Star Casino.

4. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Located in Philip, just off I-90 and near the Badlands National Park, in southwest South Dakota, visitors can be transformed back to the time of the Cold War and massive arms race with the former Soviet Union while viewing this former nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile site that was operated by the 66th Strategic Missile Squadron of the 44th Strategic Missile Wing headquartered at Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City. Opened in 1999, the site includes one of the 150 missile silos and corresponding underground Launch Control Center, Launch Control Facility Delta-01, one of 15 in the plains -- along with the Minuteman Missile Visitor Center. The park presents an opportunity for visitors to reflect on a peaceful prairie that once held the power to destroy the world, with exhibits that explain the technology, the service men and women, and the history of the Cold War and civil defense measures. Learn more at: Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.

5. Oahe Dam. Located six miles north of Pierre on Highway 1804, in central South Dakota, this large earth-rolled dam creates the fourth largest reservoir in the United States -- Lake Oahe -- which stretches 231 miles along the old Missouri River up to Bismarck, North Dakota. Visitors can find 51 recreational areas along Lake Oahe which offer camping, picnicking, fishing, hunting, skiing, boating, birding, hiking, and biking. The dam was authorized in 1944 by the Flood Control Act, with work beginning in 1948. By 1962, the dam was functioning and providing hydroelectric power. The dam now provides electricity for much of the north-central U.S. Oahe comes from a Sioux word meaning a place to stand on. Visitors can check out the dam, Lake Oahe, and the Oahe Dam Visitor Center, which provides a detailed history of the dam. Learn more at: South Dakota Missouri River Tourism.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.

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