We only spent a week in the Black Hills but we packed that time with exploring the area and now this is the third post we’ve written on the area. We’ve already told you about the wild horses, the mammoths and the wildlife at Custer State Park, but we still have a couple of other stories to tell.
Our previous post talked about our visit to the Homestake Mine, but I also wanted to visit an old-timey kind of mine; one dug out by hand with pick axes and dynamite. We found exactly that when we visited Big Thunder Gold Mine just outside of Keystone. This mine was claimed in 1892 by two German immigrants who had never met before but who teamed up because they shared a common language. Over the next 30 years the two miners dug over 600 feet into solid rock using the most modern tools of the day: hammers, chisels and dynamite and finally pneumatic drills. All this labor over all this time yielded only a few ounces of gold. Even so, this mine was considered to be a success because at least some gold was found here.
We started our visit by donning hard hats and then following our guide into the mine opening. Once in the mine everything surrounding you is solid rock. Just inside the entrance is a little nook where the miners ducked to hide from their dynamite blasts. It’s almost unimaginable to think that this shaft was carved out by hand and using only candle light.
The tour took us all the way to end of the shaft and then back out again to visit the refining equipment in an adjacent shed. There we learned about gold fever and how it was caused by the mercury used to “capture” the gold. After the tour is a gold panning demonstration and you can rent a pan and try to find your fortune. We didn’t strike it rich, but we really enjoyed visiting the mine!
Another big attraction near the Black Hills is the Badlands National Park. This incredible park has fantastic geological formations like no others we’ve seen before. Thousands of spires, buttes and striped rock formations. It has to be seen to be fully understood. We’ve been here before and knew where to look for buffalo and prairie dogs and on our way there we spotted something just to the right of the road. What’s that? Could it be…maybe…yes! It was a bighorn sheep just standing there and posing for us. We’ve seen bighorns before in the Rockies but we’ve never had a chance to get a picture. This time we had time to take lots of shots!
The Black Hills is one of our favorite places to visit in the United States. There is so much to see and do here that you could spend weeks here without repeating. However, we like to visit here in smaller bites, savoring each place we visit and taking our time to just enjoy the moments. We can’t wait to come again!