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South Dakota Stops on the Way

America’s Center Point

Belle Fourche, S.D. is the geographical center of the U.S. and home to Old West History.

Center of the Nation Monument in Belle Fourche, S.D.
Stand in the center of the nationPhoto by Jon Larson courtesy of Tri-State Museum and Visitors Center

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 Visitors 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.

Belle of the Ball Termesphere at the Tri-State Museum in Belle Fourche, S.D.
\”Belle of the Ball\” TermespherePhoto by John Larson courtesy of the Tri-State Museum and Visitors Center

Families will want to start out at the Visitors 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 “Belle 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.

Pioneer Home exhibit at the Tri-State Museum in Belle Fourche, S.D.
Find out what it was like to live in a pioneer homePhoto by Jean Maher courtesy of Tri-State Museum and Visitors Center

Next, head to the museum where you’ll peruse newly refreshed 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.

Tribal artifacts on display at the Tri-State Museum in Belle Fourche, S.D.
Tribal artifacts on display at the Tri-State Museum in Belle Fourche, S.D. Photo: Courtesy of Tri-State Museum and Visitors Center

“So much of the Old West has gone glitzy,” says Thielen. “Here in Belle Fourche, we’ve kept our authenticity.”

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.

The Johnny Spaulding Cabin at the Tri-State Museum in Belle Fourche, S.D.
Explore the Johnny Spaulding Cabin at the Tri-State MuseumPhoto by Jon Larson courtesy of the Tri-State Museum and Visitors Center

Belle Fourche’s favorite Hometown Thursdays will take place at the Tri-State Museum’s sprawling lawn Summer 2021. Stop by Thursdays in June and July to see love music and peruse food vendors and artisan booths. There’s also activities for the kids.

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For more information:

Tri-State Museum
(605) 723-1200
415 5th Ave, Belle Fourche, SD 57717
www.thetristatemuseum.com

Belle Fourche Chamber
(888) 345-5859
www.bellefourchechamber.org