Wild Bill Hickok’s Last Ride
Deadwood, South Dakota
~ September 13 – 18, 2020 ~
Price per Person: $2,295.00
A Historic South Dakota Horseback Ride and Tour
~ All Rides are Suitable for All Riding Levels – from the Novice to the Advanced ~
Wild Bill Hickok’s Last Ride, Deadwood and the Black Hills, South Dakota
We’ve chosen some of the most scenic locations / horseback trails to ride in the Black Hills, including:
- Historic Fort Meade
- Spearfish Canyon
- Crazy Horse / Mount Rushmore area
- Custer State Park
- The Badlands
Pre-Trips – Saturday & Sunday prior to our “Adventure”
- A detailed itinerary for our historic Pre-Trips for Saturday & Sunday will be provided as we get closer to our adventure (all meals included).
Devil’s Tower, Wyoming: Saturday
After breakfast on Saturday, we’ll carpool from the Franklin Hotel in Deadwood, SD to the iconic Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Devils Tower (also Bear Lodge Butte) is a laccolithic butte composed of igneous rock in the Bear Lodge Mountains (part of the Black Hills) near Hulett and Sundance in Crook County, northeastern Wyoming, above the Belle Fourche River. It rises dramatically 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River, standing 867 feet from summit to base. The summit is 5,112 feet above sea level.
Devils Tower was the first declared United States National Monument, established on September 24, 1906, by President Theodore Roosevelt. The monument’s boundary encloses an area of 1,347 acres (545 ha).
In recent years, about 1% of the monument’s 400,000 annual visitors climb Devils Tower, mostly using traditional climbing techniques. Hint: we won’t do this!!
According to the Native American tribes of the Kiowa and Lakota, a group of girls went out to play and were spotted by several giant bears, who began to chase them. In an effort to escape the bears, the girls climbed atop a rock, fell to their knees, and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them. Hearing their prayers, the Great Spirit made the rock rise from the ground towards the heavens so that the bears could not reach the girls. The bears, in an effort to climb the rock, left deep claw marks in the sides, which had become too steep to climb. Those are the marks which appear today on the sides of Devils Tower. When the girls reached the sky, they were turned into the stars of the Pleiades.
The first documented Caucasian visitors were several members of Captain William F. Raynolds’ 1859 expedition to Yellowstone. Sixteen years later, Colonel Richard I. Dodge escorted an Office of Indian Affairs scientific survey party to the massive rock formation and coined the name Devils Tower. Recognizing its unique characteristics, the United States Congress designated the area a U.S. forest reserve in 1892 and in 1906 Devils Tower became the nation’s first National Monument.
After lunch, with time permitting, we’ll take in a few museums as we head back to Deadwood for our evenings entertainment.
The Trial of Jack McCall
Saturday afternoon, we’ll visit several of Deadwood’s Museums (see itinerary below), witness Calamity Jane’s “True Tales” and “The Shootout”, have dinner and watch “The Boone May/Prescott Web Alternation. We’ll witness the historic “Capture of Jack McCall” and attend The Dover Brothers Pre-Trial Old-Thyme Musical Show, followed by The Trial of Jack McCall. A busy day taking in as much history of the area as possible.
Museum Row: Sunday
After breakfast, we are scheduled to take in quite a few museums, a few scheduled with special tours. Lunch (included) at The Lodge at Deadwood. We’ll return in plenty of time to change into our finest for dinner. There will be a Wild Bill Hickok & Calamity Jane Costume Contest at the Saloon #10 immediately after dinner. This event was well received by all last year (2018) and the costuming was fantastic… if you are into this sort of thing… and most of us are!! Hint: Think the HBO series “Deadwood” or Jeff Bridges in “Wild Bill.” Historically accurate interpretations also welcome! Of course, on Tuesday night we will also feature a “Buckskin & Fringe” Costume Contest after dinner – another big success!
Our 5-Day Adventure in the Black Hills of South Dakota Begins…
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:
Deadwood, South Dakota
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.
Wild Bill Hickok … Prince of Pistoleers
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.
- Hickok is credited with killing six men, possibly seven counting the questionable death of David McCanles at Rock Creek Station, Nebraska in 1861.
- Seth Bullock and Sol Star are also buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery.
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! There will be a special tribute to military active and veterans… many in our group were honored as military veterans.
Custer State Park
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.
Our first year (2018) of this ride, we rode within 20 yards of the massive buffalo herd. For whatever reason, it was emotional and spiritual for the entire group. We slowly rode through the herd, with thoughts of Gus McCrae from the Lonesome Dove film doing the same. Awesome is the best adjective to use to describe the day.
Badlands National Park
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.
Cost: $2,295 per person
- Initial Deposit: $750 per person, non-refundable deposit required
- Saturday Pre-Trip; $200 per person
- Sunday Pre-Trip: $100 per person
- Final Payment: Due 90 days prior to ride
- Click Here to Book This Ride
- Trained horses (you’ll be matched to a horse based on each individual’s riding abilities)
- Tack (use of personal saddles okay)
- Wranglers (they do all the real work)
- Historians / Private Tours / museum entries
- Three meals a day (sack lunches for saddlebags when riding), Monday through Friday
- Should you cancel within 90 days prior to ride …. all monies non-refundable
- Should Great American Adventures cancel this ride: all monies 100% refundable
- See Terms & Conditions
- Also See: Travel Insurance – this is strongly recommended.
- Transportation to and from Deadwood & The Black Hills, South Dakota
- Motels in Deadwood & The Black Hills
- Rental cars (if needed)
- Period clothing (See Dress Code)
- Though not mandatory, dressing in “period-clothing” makes these rides more fun, more adventurous, and makes for great photos ops!! Try it! Don’t spend lots of money unless you want to… I make several recommendations on the Dress Code site where to purchase these items.
Let’s start with an Optional Pre-Trip on Saturday and Sunday:
Saturday, September 12, 2020
- Optional Saturday Pre-Trip: Cost $200 per person
- 7:00 AM – Breakfast
- 8:00 AM – Depart for Devil’s Tower, Wyoming
- 9:30 AM – Arrive Devil’s Tower
- 11:30 AM – Depart Devil’s Tower for Homestake God Mine Tour
- 1:00 PM – Lunch
- 1:30 PM – Arrive Homestake Gold Mine Tour (Sanford Lab)
- 2:30 PM – Depart Homestake Gold Mine Tour for Broken Boot Gold Mine Tour
- 2:45 PM – Tour Broken Boot Gold Mine Tour
- 4:00 PM – Depart for Franklin Hotel – freshen up
- 5:15 PM – Arrive Franklin Hotel to freshen up
- Deadwood Main Street Shootout
- 5:45 PM – Calamity Jane’s “True Tales”
- 6:00 PM – “The Boone May/Prescott Web Alternation” Shootout
- Dinner immediately after the Shootout
- 7:35 PM – The “Capture of Jack McCall”
- 7:50 PM – The Dover Brothers Pre-Trial Old-thyme Musical Show
- 8:00 PM – The Trial of Jack McCall
Sunday, September 13
- Optional Sunday Pre-Trip: Cost $100.00 per person
- 7:30 AM – Breakfast
- 8:00 AM – Depart for various museums
- Noon – Lunch at The Lodge at Deadwood
- 3:30 PM – Arrive back at Franklin Hotel to freshen up for dinner and costume contests.
Sunday Afternoon, September 13 … Our Adventure Begins
- 5:00 PM – Depart Franklin Hotel for Mount Moriah Cemetery
- 5:15 PM – We’ll visit Wild Bill at the Mt. Moriah Cemetery for our traditional GAA toast
- 6:00 PM – We’ll move over to the Old Saloon #10
- 7:00 PM – GAA’s time-honored “Meet & Greet” Dinner at Saloon #10, Deadwood’s Social Club’s Private Room
Monday through Friday, September 14 – 18
- 7:30 AM – Breakfast each morning
- 8:30 AM – Drive to a different trail head each morning
- We are scheduled to ride historic Fort Meade; Spearfish Canyon where Dances with Wolves finale was filmed; Custer State Park and the Badlands.
- 7:00 PM – Dinner each night
Recommended Hotel in Deadwood
- Sunday, Monday & Tuesday
- Silverado Franklin Historic Hotel, 709 Main St., Deadwood, SD 57732: (605) 578-3670 / www.silveradofranklin.com
Recommended Hotel in Custer State Park
- Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
- We have contracted with Custer State Park for accommodations. They offer a variety of properties. We will headquarter at the State Game Lodge where we will have dinner one evening. Management at the resort has recommended we post the following:
- While we understand that it may be early to be making travel plans, Custer State Park Resort’s accommodations book very quickly. Outside of the Park, options are limited, and you can expect a drive time of 20 minutes or more from our group’s location. We have set up a block of rooms that will be released on Monday, January 13, 2020. If you are at all interested in reserving a room on site, the Lodge recommends that you call and make your reservations as soon as possible so that you have the best possible chance of getting a room and room type that works for you. Call 1-888-875-0001 to make your reservations and reference the Great American Adventures at the State Game Lodge when calling. If there are no rooms in the block that suit your needs, you can ask what is available outside of the block, instead. Be prepared to charge the first and last night’s deposit when making your reservation. If you do have to cancel, this deposit is refundable less a $25 cancellation fee if you do so at least 15 days in advance.
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:
- Prairie Edge Trading Co & Galleries, 606 Main Street, SD 57701: (605) 342-3086 / prairieedge.com