Top Trail Towns: Deadwood, South Dakota
Deadwood, South Dakota
Courtesy Photo of Deadwood Chamber of Commerce
In the northern Black Hills lies a lush valley thick with conifers that holds a tightly clustered tourist village called Deadwood. Some 139 years ago, when white prospectors first entered this valley—then the territory of the Lakota Sioux Indians—it was filled with its namesake, dead wood, leftovers from a recent, sweeping forest fire. Those prospectors found enough gold to incite a multi-year gold rush. During that time, life was rough and rowdy with gambling, fighting and prostitution (anyone watch the HBO TV series “Deadwood,” based on late-1800s life in the town?).
Nowadays, while the trees have grown back and prostitution (but not gambling!) has been outlawed, arriving at the village is akin to stepping back in time; Deadwood retains its original character through careful caretaking of its historic buildings and objects. Says Emily Wheeler, the 37-year-old race director for the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon and the President of the Black Hills Runners Club, “Gunslingers like Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and other outlaws roamed here. You can see—and feel—Deadwood’s deep history when you walk its cobblestone streets.”
She continues, “And when you look beyond Deadwood and out into the hills, it still feels Wild, Wild West-like.” That’s because the region is largely protected and preserved as the enormous 1.25-million-acre Black Hills National Forest as well as other federal and state lands. “In the forest, there are literally thousands of miles of trails,” says Wheeler.