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Newsroom - South Dakota Facts

South Dakota has often been referred to as the land of infinite variety. That variety is reflected in everything from our weather to our scenery, our economy to our state symbols and more. Here are some useful and interesting South Dakota facts. 

South Dakota ranks 16th in size among the 50 states. It was the 40th state to join the Union in 1889. South Dakota encompasses 77,123 square miles, averaging 10 people per square mile.

It has the highest point in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains (Harney Peak in the Black Hills; elevation 7,242 feet) and more miles of shoreline than the state of Florida.

POPULATION: 814,180 (2010 census)


STATE TREE: Black Hills Spruce

HIGHEST POINT: Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak), 7,242 feet

STATE CAPITAL: Pierre (pronounced "peer")

STATE BIRD: Chinese ring-necked pheasant



STATE GEMSTONE: Fairburn Agate

STATE NICKNAME: The Mount Rushmore State


STATE FOSSIL: Triceratops






STATE SONG: "Hail, South Dakota"

STATE MOTTO: "Under God, the people rule"

STATE SLOGAN: "Great Faces. Great Places."


Sprawling prairies, fertile farmland and glacial lakes dominate the landscape in eastern South Dakota. Prairies and ranchland are common in central South Dakota. Mountains grace the western skyline, and in the southwest, striking Badlands formations rise abruptly from the surrounding prairie. 
The Missouri River runs through the central and southeastern part of the state. Lakes, formed by retreating glaciers thousands of years ago, cover the northeastern corner of South Dakota.

South Dakota Flag

The South Dakota flag features the state seal surrounded by a blazing sun in a field of sky blue. "South Dakota, The Mount Rushmore State" is arranged in a circle around the sun.


Tourism is the second largest industry in South Dakota. In 2006, travelers spent nearly $865 million across the state.

The state also has a strong agricultural base. It is the largest industry in the state. South Dakota routinely ranks among the top 10 states for the production of hay, sunflowers, rye, honey, soybeans, corn, wheat and cattle.

The service sector, retail trade and manufacturing industries account for the majority of the state's employment.

South Dakota Song:  "Hail, South Dakota”

Words and Music by DeeCort Hammitt
Hail! South Dakota, A great state of the land, 
Health, wealth and beauty, That's what makes her grand;
She has her Black Hills, And mines with gold so rare,
And with her scenery, No other state can compare.
Come where the sun shines, And where life's worth your while, 
You won't be here long, 'Till you'll wear a smile;
No state's so healthy, And no folk quite so true,
To South Dakota. We welcome you.
Hail! South Dakota, The state we love the best,
Land of our fathers, Builders of the west;
Home of the Badlands, and Rushmore's ageless shrine, 
Black Hills and prairies, Farmland and Sunshine.
Hills, farms and prairies, Blessed with bright Sunshine

South Dakota History

By the close of the 18th century, the tribes of the Sioux Nation - the Santee, Teton and Yankton - thrived on the northern Plains. The tribes spoke three dialects of the same language: Dakota, Lakota or Nakota.

Explorers Lewis and Clark visited present-day South Dakota in 1804 and again in 1806, on their historic journey to and from the Pacific Ocean. Their passage, and the efforts of early fur traders, essentially opened up the West to commercial trade.

The discovery of gold in the Black Hills in 1874 caused a rush of miners, prospectors and fortune seekers to that area. The arrival of the railroad also helped to speed up settlement in Dakota Territory. In 1878, the rush for land known as the "Great Dakota Boom" began.

South Dakota gained statehood in 1889 - the 40th state to enter the Union.

Also see the About South Dakota section for more information.



Leaders and Politicians

Tom Daschle - former U.S. Senator and Senate Majority/Minority Leader
Joseph Foss - WWII fighter ace, South Dakota Governor (1955-59), commissioner of the American Football League
Hubert Humphrey - vice president under Lyndon Johnson
George McGovern - former U.S. Senator and 1972 Democratic presidential candidate

News and Entertainment

Bob Barker - former host of "Price is Right"
Tom Brokaw - former "NBC Nightly News" anchor
Mary Hart - "Entertainment Tonight" co-host
Cheryl Ladd - "Charlie's Angels" and "Las Vegas"
Al Neuharth - founder of "USA Today" and the Freedom Forum
Pat O'Brien - "Access Hollywood" co-host

Native Americans

Crazy Horse - Native American chief (Oglala Lakota)
Kevin Locke - Native American hoop dancer (Standing Rock Lakota)
Billy Mills - Native American athlete and humanitarian (Oglala Lakota)
Benjamin Reifel - former U.S. Congressman and U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs (Rosebud Lakota)

Artists and Authors

Harvey Dunn - famed prairie artist
Terry Redlin - popular American artist
L. Frank Baum - author, "The Wizard of Oz"
Laura Ingalls Wilder - author, "Little House on the Prairie" books


Sparky Anderson - former baseball manager
Shawn Colvin - popular singer and songwriter