Delta Queen Cruise & Tour | 2005 Photos
Memphis to New Orleans
(Go ahead… click on one)
(Go ahead… click on one)
We’ve chosen some of the most scenic locations / horseback trails to ride in the Black Hills, including:
Our five-day historic Wild Bill Hickok’s Last Ride, Deadwood, South Dakota will take us through South Dakota’s premier national forest – the Black Hills. The Black Hills is a translation of the Lakota Paha Sapa, so called due to their dark appearance from a distance. Native American’s have a long and storied history here. The Lakota took it from the Cheyenne in 1776 and it became central to their culture. The 1868 U.S. Fort Laramie Treaty established the Great Sioux Reservation and exempted the Black Hills from all white settlement. That is, until gold was discovered in 1874 during George Custer’s Black Hills Expedition, creating an epic gold rush. Miners swept into the area. The US government took back the Black Hills from the mighty Sioux… but let’s not go into the Indian Wars era here… best saved for a future ride.
Suffice it to say, for us, our journey through the Black Hills will be magnificent. And we’ve chosen our dates carefully. Usually, the first week in September after Labor Day the tourists are heading back to school and work, leaving the ghosts of all-things Deadwood just for us. With temperatures averaging in the low 40’s at night to the mid 70’s during the day, this is perfect for riding and sightseeing.
Our stops during our historic Wild West horseback ride and tour through the Black Hills include:
Dubbed Deadwood after the dead trees stumbled upon in the gulch where miners decided to encamp; it swiftly became the country’s Holy Grail of gold rushes in the 1870’s. And promptly earned its reputation as one of the most violent, harshest, rowdiest and most profitable boom-towns of the era. Why wouldn’t such a recognizable-sounding old west town – backed by an excellent and never-to-be-forgotten HBO series – beckon Great American Adventure riders? It’s no different than the tony town of Tombstone and its dozen of films… this is just our game!
The entire city is a National Historic Landmark District for its well-preserved Gold Rush-era architecture. Wild West history abounds… and the city embraces its past with a wonderful plethora of well-maintained buildings, first-rate museums, Victorian-era hotels, fine eateries and mine tours to captivate us during our visit. And yeah… there is gambling and drinking too. In fact, we’ll headquarter at the richly-ornate, Victorian-era historic Franklin Hotel for our three night stay in Deadwood (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights). This puts us in walking distance of the finest restaurants, saloons and casinos in town.
We’ll ride the beautiful trails surrounding historic Fort Meade, near Sturgis, named in honor of Major George M. Meade, of Civil War fame. The fort was established in 1878 as a cavalry fort to protect new settlements in the northern Black Hills, especially the gold mining area around Deadwood. Units stationed here included the 7th Cavalry (after the Little Bighorn Battle), the Buffalo Soldiers of the Twenty-fifth Infantry, and the 4th U.S. Cavalry. Fort Meade was preceded by Camp Sturgis in August, 1876, by order of General Sheridan, and named in honor of Lt. Jack Sturgis, who fought and fell with Custer at the Little Bighorn. It was here that the horse Comanche, who survived the Battle of the Little Bighorn, was brought by the 7th Regiment.
Our ride to nearby Spearfish Canyon was chosen for its Aspen covered hill sides, waterfalls and breathtaking limestone palisades. Rich in scenic beauty, we’ll see first-hand why several scenes from Dances with Wolves were filmed here. After our day ride we’ll dine at the stunning Spearfish Canyon Lodge.
The city of Deadwood is synonymous with one of the greatest Wild West pistolero’s: James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok. Wild Bill is considered one of the greatest gunfighters of the American West. Of course, there was that time in Nebraska that “Wild Bill” was referred to derisively as “Duck Bill” for his long nose and protruding lips. And the Jayhawers called him “Shanghai Bill” because of his height and weight. But the world knows him simply as “Wild Bill.”
Bills’ biography is a lengthy one: one-time stagecoach driver on the Santa Fe Trail, a Nebraska constable, one of General Jim Lane’s Kansas Jayhawers, teamster for the Union Army, Civil War Union scout & spy, post Civil War Colorado U.S. Army scout, and sometime scout for General Custer’s 7th Cavalry and the 10th Cavalry Regiment (a segregated African-American unit).
During his time in the mid-1860’s, a correspondent wrote: “Mr. Hickok is endowed with extraordinary power and agility. He seems naturally suited to perform daring actions.”
Beginning in July, 1869 he served as a U.S. Marshal in Hays City, Kansas. Questionable shootings and conduct – two unruly cowboys killed plus two 7th Cavalry troopers that attempted to assassinate Bill were killed – and Bill found himself unemployed. In April, 1871 Bill became marshal of Abilene, Kansas. After accidentally killing his deputy a few months later, Bill was without a job once again. For a very short time Bill performed in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West until he was fired. He took up gambling as his profession. His drinking, among other vices, started his downward spiral.
Seeking his fortune in the gold fields of the Black Hills, Hickok, along with Calamity Jane, arrived with the Charlie Utter wagon train in the cesspool called Deadwood in July of 1876. There he gambled and started drinking… hard.
On August 2, 1876 Will Bill was playing poker at Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon No. 10, sitting in the only chair available which was facing away from the door. He always preferred – and had learned – to sit with his back to the wall and face the entrance. Jack “Broken Nose Jack” McCall, a chip on his shoulder that is debated this day, walked up behind Bill and shot him in the back of the head with his Colt Model 1873 .45. Bill died holding the ace of spades, ace of clubs, the eight of spades and eight of clubs which forever more became known as the dead man’s hand.
Friend Charlie Utter buried Bill with a wooden marker reading: Wild Bill, J. B. Hickok killed by the assassin Jack McCall in Deadwood, Black Hills, August 2, 1876. Bill was laid to rest at the Ingleside Cemetery in Deadwood. Three years later Utter paid to remove Bill’s remains to the new Mount Moriah Cemetery. They found that Bill’s body had petrified, was as solid as a brick wall and weighed five-hundred pounds, making it almost impossible to move. A final, posthumous joke was played on Bill years later when four men approved to have Calamity Jane – who Hickok had “absolutely no use” for in this life – laid to rest next to him. Rest in peace, Wild Bill.
Eighteen days later, Indians murdered Minister Henry Smith as he walked to nearby Crook City to preach. These were dangerous and desperate times.
We leave Deadwood behind and head south through the Black Hills toward Mount Rushmore and ultimately Custer State Park and the Badlands.
We have been invited by Mount Rushmore for a sumptuous dinner after our day ride, followed by the lighting ceremony of Mount Rushmore at dusk. A must see!
South Dakota’s largest and first state park and wildlife reserve, named after Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer. This will be our new headquarters for the reminder of the week, just outside the west gate. I love everything buffalo. Motivated by the films Dances with Wolves and Lonesome Dove, I not only want to see them; I want to ride among them… at a safe distance of course. There are about 1,500 free-roaming buffalo on the park, we surely can’t miss them! Heck, we almost hit a huge buffalo driving home from the park one evening after dinner while putting this ride together. Did I say dining? Our dinners for our two nights in the park will be top-notch and delicious. Obviously, we pre-tripped this ride and had a ball doing it.
Imagine riding around and among sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires blended with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the Unites States in this designated wilderness area. Native Americans have used this area for their hunting grounds for over 11,000 years. One can still see the rocks and charcoal of their campfires, their arrowheads and tools eroding out of the stream banks. One of the last Ghost Dances was conducted in the southern unit of the Badlands. Western movie fans will love the scenery and wonder which of their favorite films have been made here.
So much to take in… to see and do… we squeeze in as much as possible in five days, pardner.
Recommended Hotel in Deadwood
Recommended Hotel in Custer, near Custer State Park
For those flying, there is the Rapid City Regional Airport; 4550 Terminal Road. You’ll have to Google your city (from) to Rapid City. Try cheapair.com or priceline.com or cheapflights.com or tripadvisor.com … there’s a bunch out there.
Arriving in Rapid City, SD… going through Rapid City, SD?? We highly recommend our favorite store: