Belle Fourche in South Dakota (pronounced bell – foosh) would be worthy of stop simply because it’s the geographic center of the nation, but when you pull over to stand in the heart of the United States, you’ll find so much more to experience.
The Tri-State Museum and Visitor Center is home to the Geographic Center of the United States Monument, a gorgeous rose quartz compass surrounded by the flags all 50 states. Once you feel centered, head up through the sprawling lawns to explore everything else this complex has to offer. The best part? It’s all free.
Families will want to start out at the Visitor Center, where kids can check out 18 discovery boxes on topics ranging from color to Native American games to help them better understand the region. Adults will find “Bell of the Ball” one of Dick Termes’ famous termespheres (a large, suspended sphere that’s a work of art) depicting Belle Fourche’s history fascinating. Don’t forget to stop in the gift shop for books, toys, memorabilia and even apparel.
Next, head to the museum where you’ll peruse exhibits on topics of the West from law and order to military history and tribal artifacts. Make sure to stop by the saddle wall and view director Kristi Thielen’s favorite artifact: a custom-made saddle with a hidden pocket for a small firearm. It may feel like something out of a spy novel, but it’s part of this little town’s Old West history.
“So much of the Old West has gone glitzy,” says Thielen. “Here in Belle Fourche, we’ve kept our authenticity.”
Summer 2020 will see several rotating exhibits on topics such as metal work, the history of rodeo and the history of medicine.
The last stop at the complex, the Johnny Spaulding Cabin, is one of the most unique experiences in Belle Fourche. One of only two remaining historic two-story cabins left standing in the United States, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you explore the log structure, filled with period artifacts.
For more information:
415 5th Ave, Belle Fourche, SD 57717
Belle Fourche Chamber