Why Not? It’s Free!

Scottsbluff National Monument, Nebraska

Scottsbluff National Monument, Nebraska

If you’ve ever driven I-90 across South Dakota, you’d know that the state is not afraid to advertise its charms.  In addition to the ubiquitous signage for the famous Wall Drug, there is also 1880 Town, and one of my favorites from the eastern part of the state, the Corn Palace in Mitchell.  Of all the signs enticing you to visit, far and away the best one is this:  Why Not?  It’s Free!

Well, in addition to the esteemed Corn Palace, and in honor of MLK Day, all National Parks and Monuments are free tomorrow! (1/18/2016)

Right on the Great Plains Trail route there are six options:

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Wind Cave National Park

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

Scottsbluff National Monument

Capulin Volcano National Monument

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Not far at all from the GPT there are three more options:

Jewel Cave National Monument

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Also in the Great Plains, but further from the GPT:

Little Bighorn National Monument

Badlands National Park

Devil’s Tower National Monument

That’s a dozen options all told!  If you live anywhere near any of these, I highly recommend taking the day and going to check them out.  Why not, it’s free!


About greatplainstrail

Building the Great Plains Trail.
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6 Responses to Why Not? It’s Free!

  1. bubbasuess says:

    Good list. There is a lot of stuff out there, scattered across the expanse. A couple that would fall into the “also in the great plains but further from the GPT” category are Alibates Flint Quarry and Lake Meridith. The latter is ok for hiking and such but the lake is really, really low. The flint quarry, though, is actually quite interesting. The draw back is it is by tour only. When I was in grad school in Dallas, there were not that many places to go that were in a “reasonable” distance from the city. Basically the Ozark/Ouchita area, the Wichitas and the Caprock (which somewhat includes the Lake Meridith area). The Ozarks and such were pretty nice, but I am a westerner at heart and always gravitated back towards the Wichitas and Caprock. Though it is obviously out of the way and not a likely route, it is too bad the Caprock can’t be included in the GPT. It is such a striking and scenic region, nothing like what you would expect out in the Texas Panhandle. If you have not read Dan Flores’ book Caprock Canyonlands, you ought to. He describes how the Palo Duro area was once considered for national park status, but Badlands was chosen instead. Come to think about it, you ought to contact him as a resource for the GPT. He used to live out near Santa Fe, but is now a professor up at UofM in Missoula. I have corresponded with him a few times. He is a pretty interesting guy and has spent a lot of time wandering the plains in Texas and eastern New Mexico.

    • I think Palo Duro should be a national park, but it’s probably too late by now, which brings us to the main reason for not including that area. It’s certainly not for a lack of scenery, but for have such a high percentage of private lands. True, eastern New Mexico isn’t much better, but it’s at least more or less in line, longitudinally speaking. I’m not familiar with Dan Flores, but it sounds like he’d be a good resource. I’ll check out that book and maybe drop him a line . . .

  2. Connie in Colorado says:

    Also nearby your favorite Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, is De Smet, SD, the real “Little Town on the Prairie” made famous by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. One can visit the Ingalls Homestead as a working farm, the Surveyor’s House, the Ingalls’ home in town (not mentioned in the LH books) and many other sites. This is tallgrass prairie with sloughs and “prairie pothole” lakes — a different feel than the western high plains, but worth a visit!

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