Welcome to the Wild West of the USA† During this roadtrip of more than 2.700 km you will become acquainted with the many (often unknown) highlights of Wyoming and southwest South Dakota. This is the land of cowboys, rodeos, Buffalo Bill, prospectors, beautiful natural areas and unfortunately also the tragic history of Wounded Knee and a Japanese concentration camp.
The United States is so much more than Florida, California, and New York. Forever West! Let's go!
Table of contents
The Itinerary: The Wild West of Wyoming
The route is composed of four trips that I have made here in recent years. Often combined with visits to the states of Montana, Idaho and Washington. But I will pay a lot of attention to that in other blogs.
this example roadtrip begins and ends in Cheyenne, the capital of Wyoming. The largest airport in these parts, however, is Denver, Colorado. From Denver it is only 160 km to Cheyenne. It is therefore advisable to choose Denver to get the best deals on flights, motorhome, motorcycle or car rental to get.
This blog follows the first part from Cheyenne to Cody (via South Dakota).
Welcome to the state capital of Wyoming: Cheyenne. Cheyenne is little more than an overgrown village. Skyscrapers are not there. Instead, the center is full of ornately decorated cowboy boots.
Cheyenne is therefore the ideal starting point for a roadtrip along many surprising sights. Especially for those who think American cities are full of skyscrapers. With barely 60.000 residents, Cheyenne is by far the largest "city" in Wyoming.
Anyway, it's just great fun to stroll around downtown Cheyenne. And simply be amazed by the friendly atmosphere. Everyone greets you. And if you want to learn a little more about Wyoming's history then it's Wyoming State Museum in the center well worth a visit. Train lovers will get their money's worth in the Cheyenne Depot Museum.
Sightseeing in and Around Cheyenne
For an informative overview of all places of interest in and around Cheyenne, watch the video below.
Are you near Cheyenne at the end of July? Cheyenne Frontier Days, the biggest rodeo event and much more, will take place here. Keep in mind that all accommodation is fully booked well in advance.
2. Deadwood (via Fort Laramie and the Black Hills)
From Cheyenne it is over 400 km to Deadwood. Until about 60 km before Deadwood it's a pretty boring road in an endless prairie. After the South Dakota state welcome signs, that ends with the beginning of the Black Hills. There is a surprising amount to see and experience in this region of southwest South Dakota and northeast Wyoming.
Fort Laramie National Historic Site is 177 km from Cheyenne. The history of this fort goes back to the 1820s when a trading post was founded on the site of the later fort. The army occupied the fort in 1849. In 1851 the Treaty of Fort Laramie was signed. In it, the United States and eight Indian tribes agreed that this would be the eternal border.
But, as with all previous agreements, the US government ultimately failed to keep it. The discovery of large amounts of gold in the nearby Black Hills forced many white prospectors into the area. The final massacre took place at Wounded Knee (see below) in 1890. Fort Laramie also closed its doors that year. The Wild West was finally conquered.
The Black Hills are a small isolated mountain range in a vast prairie area in southwestern South Dakota (and a small part of Wyoming). In this area that borders the Badlands are numerous places of interest.
Route map with all points of interest in and around Black Hills National Forest
Wild Bill Hickok's Deadwood and Casinos
The town of Deadwood in the Black Hills of South Dakota is a legend among Wild West fans. The American channel HBO devoted a fantastic series to the lawless gold-mining town a few years ago, titled: Deadwood. Followed by a feature film in 2019.
The village of Deadwood has barely 2021 inhabitants in 1.000. In the heyday of the gold rush at the end of the nineteenth century, there were more than 25.000. Some icons of the Wild West such as Wild Bill Hickok, Seth Bullock, Wyatt Earp and Calamity Jane have lived there.
Deadwood is an absolute must for lovers of the Wild West. The Deadwood City Council website contains a lot of information.
Shoutouts from days gone by are reenacted several times a day from June through September in the open air on Main Street. In saloon no. 10 on Main Street, the murder of Wild Bill Hickok is re-enacted several times a day. He was shot in the head by James Butler during a poker game in this saloon in 1876.
Deadwood is home to a large number of casinos. Yes, gambling is not only legal in Las Vegas, Reno, Laughlin and Atlantic City. You can also take a gamble in Deadwood.
3. Wounded Knee
Wounded Knee is where the United States Army massacred nearly 1890 Lakota Indians in December 300. Music lovers may remember the gigantic hit of the Indian band Redbone from 1973: 'We were all wounded at Wounded Knee.' Redbone wrote the song in response to a 1973 uprising in Wounded Knee to draw attention to the appalling conditions of the Lakota Indians.
In the Netherlands, this song took first place in the Top 40. However, record company CBS refused to release the song in the United States because of the 'controversial lyrics'. Also in 2003 the song was not placed on a compilation album of the band.
Visiting the site of this massacre is a sobering experience. I myself was there in the summer of 2011. Then a few Lakota Indians had set up a small museum there.
The two ladies in the museum knew for sure. I had to come back tonight as there was going to be a Sundance. "The world will never be the same after that."
The idea of establishing a museum in memory of the massacre in this tragic place has still not been realized in 2021. There is a museum about Wounded Knee in the town of Wall, 120 km from the real Wounded Knee. Click here for a lot of information about the museum.
It is an absolute must to visit both places. The road in between is one that runs through it Badland National Park.
4. Mount Rushmore
Historian Doane Robinson got the idea for M† Its purpose was to attract more tourists to South Dakota. In 1927, sculptor Gutzon Borglum began work on the project. In 1941, the project was completed and the 18-meter-long heads of the four presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt were visible in the rocks.
In recent years, Mount Rushmore has received about three million tourists a year. In any case, this means that the mission to stimulate tourism to this remote area has been successful.
The Crazy Horse project
Incidentally, not far from Mount Rushmore, another sculpture project is underway. An image of Crazy Horse has been worked on since 1948. It is not clear when or if the statue will ever be completed.
Other places of interest near Mount Rushmore
Some of the three million visitors to Mount Rushmore travel to South Dakota solely for this purpose. That is a pity, because in the vicinity there are quite a number of special national parks.
In addition to the Black Hills and Badlands, Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park are also located here. Each and every one of them special areas to drive through at your leisure.
5. Devil's Tower
In northeastern Wyoming, near the border with South Dakota, a monolith rises nearly 400 meters into the air.
Fans of a steep climb will find what they are looking for at Devils Tower. On the walking path around Devils Tower I meet a very nice couple. They say they've been sitting here all day. 'Why?' I ask. “Two of our grandchildren are climbing Devils Tower. Look there!'
Grandma doesn't like it at all. She's quite tense. 'You never know. If a rope snaps. They are my grandchildren.'
End part 1