We are very fortunate to call South Dakota home. We live in a beautiful, diverse state with an interesting history. We welcome visitors from all over the U.S. and the world, but South Dakota also offers new experiences to those who have lived here their whole lives. Some of my favorite memories with my family include camping trips to the Black Hills and boating on the Missouri River.
Jean and I always try to take a few days each summer to drive through the Black Hills. With my busy schedule working in Washington, this trip lets us spend quality time together in a place we both love. When Jean was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, she and I promised that we’d make our annual Black Hills trip a priority. It is something both of us looked forward to throughout her treatment, and I’m so glad we were able to do some of our favorite things like drive around Sylvan Lake and enjoy the view from the porch of the State Game Lodge in Custer, which used to serve as the “Summer White House” for President Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s.
Summer in the Black Hills is truly beautiful, and there is so much to do. Biking, hiking, golfing, and water sports are popular, but the most popular event in the Black Hills each year is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Last year, nearly half a million people from all over the world visited Sturgis for the rally to meet up with other bikers, go to concerts and cruise around western South Dakota. It’s one of the only times of the year we have actual traffic jams in South Dakota!
With our long, cold winters, we really appreciate summer in South Dakota. But now that families are sending the kids back to school and we’re gearing up for fall, we can look forward to another favorite South Dakota tradition: pheasant hunting. We are home to world-class pheasant habitat, especially in the central part of the state. Out-of-state hunters flock to South Dakota each fall to hunt, and when they do they stay in our hotels, visit our restaurants and support businesses in our communities.
Travel and tourism are a big source of income for South Dakota businesses. In fact, tourism is second only to agriculture as our state’s top industry. Many businesses rely on major events like the Sturgis Rally or the opening weekend of pheasant season to get through the rest of the year. According to the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, hunters, anglers, boaters and state park visitors spend $1.3 billion annually. This spending has a major impact on our state’s economy by supporting around 18,000 full-and part-time jobs.
No matter where you go in South Dakota, you’ll find friendly people and something new and exciting to see or do. The glacial lakes and prairies in the northeast, the busy and growing city of Sioux Falls in the southeast, the communities along the beautiful Missouri River and the towering pines and peaks of the Black Hills — and everywhere in between — provide something for everyone to explore in the land of Great Faces and Great Places. Thank you to all those who work in the tourism industry who make sure vacation-goers have a memorable time in our state.