Friday, September 11, 2020
Alrighty then, while in Rapid City we had a day maxing out a 102 degrees last Saturday. Two days later here in Pierre the high was 47 degrees. That’s a 55 degree temperature swing folks! Nighttime temps dropped from high sixties to nearly freezing. Sheesh! The weather slowly started to warm into the low sixties during our stay, which is comfortable for us.
A major encounter which affected the destiny of all inhabitants of the region occurred in Fort Pierre on September 24-28, 1804. At the mouth of the Bad River, in present day Fischer Lilly Park members of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery met for the first time with the Lakota people, known to them as the Teton Sioux. Differences in trade objectives, diplomacy, and the lack of an interpreter lead to an armed confrontation, the closest Lewis and Clark came to a premature end to their expedition. Today the park is certified as a National Park Service Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail site.
Also of historical interest is the Verendrye Site. French explorers Francois and Louis-Joseph Verendrye buried a lead plate on this hillside overlooking what now is Fort Pierre on March 30, 1743. The plate documents the Verendryes as the first European explorers on the northern plains. The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 made the area a part of the United States. The plate was found in 1913 by a couple of teenagers who considered selling it to the local print shop. A state historian caught wind of the plate, realized it’s importance and saved it. The plate is on display at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre.
We visited Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center in Fort Pierre. Casey was born in nearby Orton, SD in 1929. He held the “World All-Around Cowboy Champion” title twice, the world saddle bronc riding championship six times and the world bareback bronc riding championship once all between 1949 and 1959. He was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in 1951.
He went on to raise and breed horses in Ramona, CA but not before becoming a stunt man, stunt coordinator, technical director, livestock consultant, wrangler, and actor for the film industry. He even wrote, directed, produced and starred in the film Born to Buck! He was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame and three more Halls of Fame. A man this famous and I’d never heard of him. He passed in 1990 from cancer.
Pierre is a small capital city as far as capitals go at just over 13,000 souls. It is only one of four state capitals that don’t have an interstate running through it and is unique among them in not having access to an expressway. The locals say that because there is no interstate not many folks from out of state visit. By the by, Pierre is not pronounced as the French pronounce the word, Pea-aire, but more like “Pier”. The city lies on the east bank of the mighty Missouri River and our campground is just a few miles downstream.
Pierre was founded in 1880 on the east bank of the Missouri River opposite Fort Pierre, a former trading post that developed as a community. She was designated as the temporary state capital when South Dakota gained statehood in 1889 and another election was held in 1890 to become the permanent capital. It was selected because of its location in the geographical center of the state. However there were several attempts to move the capital. After three elections, many citizens believed that a large, permanent building would end any further relocation efforts.
Looking at the capitol building I had a sense of deja vu and I was right. The same architects were hired that designed the Montana State Capitol and that design was to be used again for the South Dakota State Capitol with some variations.. Construction began in 1905 and completed in 1910- the total cost of the building under one million dollars. We’ve been to the Montana State Capitol in Helena and this capitol building is very similar.
Development of the city was influenced by railroads which run east-west through the city, increasing access to markets for regional products and transportation of passengers.
Farm Island State Recreation Area is one of the nicest state parks that we have encountered. It lies on the bank of a back bay of the Missouri. All picnic and campgrounds luxuriate in mowed grass, all surrounded in natural grassland. The camp sites are large and deep, an invitation to any RV or tent camper. Electric hookups are at each site but no water or sewer which is typical of campgrounds designed by the US Corps of Engineers. Included in the park are picnic areas, a playground for children, meeting rooms, and an archery range and boat launch.Farm Island is one of a handful of state recreation areas located along the river and Lake Oahe, created by the Oahe Dam.
The Corps of Engineers began building the Oahe Dam in 1948 and in 1962 started generating electricity. It’s the fourth largest man-made reservoir in the United States, measuring 231 miles connecting the capital cities of South Dakota and North Dakota, Pierre and Bismarck. The dam measures 9360 long, 3500 feet wide and 245 feet high. The lake’s capacity is 23,137,000 acre feet of water. Folks that’s big!
So who do you think the big losers were as a result of the dam’s construction? Yep, the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation lost 150,000 acres most of it prime agricultural land. The loss was profound. One visitor asked why there were so few older Indians on the reservations and was told that “the old people died of heartache” after the construction of the dam and loss of the reservations’ land. Not only did they lose their farmland but their towns.
Pierre was a great visit for us. The town is nice, the Capitol is awesome and Farm Island State Recreation Area is outstanding.