Old West Lives On in Deadwood SD
Relive the old west or gamble. The entire city of Deadwood is a
National Historic Landmark. It was established in 1876 during the Black
Hills gold rush, when John B. Pearson discovered gold in a narrow
canyon in the northern Black Hills. The canyon became known as
“Deadwood Gulch” due to the dead trees that lined the canyon walls at
The town has survived a great fire in 1879, another fire in 1894 and an
1883 flood. It is known as a Wild West town, and celebrates the likes
of Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Potato Creek Johnny and Seth
We spent several days in the area. Here are some of the things to do that we noted:
Fun in Deadwood –
- Visit the casinos – the town is full of them. The fanciest joint is
Kevin Costner’s Midnight Star. The casino, restaurant and bar all
house pictures and movie memorabilia of Costner films. The casinos are
low key and in keeping with the historic appeal of the town. Gambling
has been part of Deadwood’s history since the beginning in 1876. And
today, it has been used to benefit the continued legacy of the city. In
1989, Deadwood supporters successfully inaugurated legal gaming with
some of the profits used for historic preservation.
- Restaurants are scattered throughout town, many
offering the “best steak” and/or buffets at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Tin Lizzie’s burger and nightly specials seem to be popular inexpensive
choices. Mustang Sally’s offers informal fare with some tables set
alongside main street.
- Perhaps the best place to begin your visit is in
the old Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad station, which has
been turned into a Visitor’s Center. You can pick up brochures and get
some valuable background info that will help make the most of your
- We don’t gamble much, yet we found a lot to keep us interested in
Deadwood. We saw the Old Style Saloon Number 10 with its historic
memorabilia and touristy reenactment of the card game where Hickok was
shot. There are also other gunslinger reenactments around town,
including the capture and trial of Wild Bill’s assassin, Jack McCall.
- Don’t miss the Adams Museum, which houses three
floors showcasing the history and people of Deadwood and the surrounding
Black Hills area. Admission is by donation. The museum was built by
pioneer businessman and philanthropist W.E. Adams, who also served as
the town’s mayor for several terms. You can also visit the restored
Adams House, with many authentic furnishings. There is an admission fee
that includes a guided tour.
- We poked around in the casinos and found some interesting
and free things to see. There’s a worthwhile Wild Bill interpretive
exhibit tucked away inside the Wild West Winners Casino (the site of the
actual Saloon 10 before the fire). Amidst the gaming machines in the
Celebrity Hotel casino, there’s a fun little collection of famous autos
and memorabilia from film and television. Check out the life-size
bronze statue of Wild Bill in front of the Four Aces. The historic
Franklin Hotel is worth a look inside. The Bullock Hotel has a few
items commemorating namesake Seth Bullock.
- Another good stop is to visit Mount Moriah Cemetery where the famous
names of Deadwood rest in peace. You can take a guided tour, or walk
through yourself. Be sure to pick up the interesting guide map that is
provided, describing the famous people buried here. Set high on a hill,
Mount Moriah also gives you a nice view of the town and the surrounding
Black Hills. You cannot drive an RV up the hill to Mount Moriah.
Instead, drive up in your car or take a very steep walk.
- At Presidents Park, you can stroll along walking
trails and see statues of the U.S. Presidents in chronological order.
- We were in town for the Days of ’76 Celebration. This is
an annual event with a rodeo and two great parades. Many of the
horse-drawn vehicles in the parade are normally on display at the Days
of ’76 Museum, along with other Western and American Indian items.
- While we were there, there was music during the day in the
Stockade Beer Garden – you can relax with a drink or something to eat
and listen. There were also live bands in several of the casino bars
(Franklin Hotel, Bodega). We caught some good country and New Orleans
tunes by the Music City Brass, who were at the Four Aces for the Days of
- Nearby is Tatanka, “Story of the Bison”. This is
another Kevin Costner project, featuring a huge sculpture of 14 bison
and an interpretive exhibit center.
- Another attraction close to Deadwood is the
Homestake Mine in the town of Lead (pronounced “leed”). When the
Homestake closed in 2001, 40 million troy ounces of gold had been mined,
making it the largest gold mine in the western hemisphere and the
oldest in the world. Surface tours are conducted in an air-conditioned
trolley that takes visitors through the town of Lead and the grounds of
the mine with explanations of the process of milling gold.
- Other nearby mining attractions include the Black Hills Mining Museum and the Broken Boot Gold Mine.
- For those craving a modern escape from the “days
gone by” theme, Gulches of Fun is a small amusement park with go-karts,
bumper boats, batting cages, miniature golf and arcade. And a casino
for the adults.
- You may also want to check out some of the trolley and bus tours of the city and and area attractions.
But do spend some time just strolling about town to learn
about its interesting history and the old West legends that live on in
this historic town.