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. South Dakota ranks 16th in size among the 50 states. It was the 40th state to join the Union in 1889 and encompasses 77,123 square miles, averaging 11 people per square mile. South Dakota boasts more miles of shoreline than the state of Florida and the highest point in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains.

Enjoy these facts about the land of Great Faces and Great Places!

Population: 869,666 (2017 Census estimate)
State Animal: Coyote
State Tree: Black Hills Spruce
Highest Point: Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak) in the Black Hills, 7,242 feet
State Capital: Pierre (pronounced "peer")
State Bird: Chinese Ring-necked pheasant
State Mineral: Rose Quartz 
State Fish: Walleye
State Gemstone: Fairburn Agate
State Nickname: The Mount Rushmore State
State Insect: Honey Bee
State Fossil: Triceratops
Statehood: 1889
State Flower: Pasque
State Soil: Houdek
State Sport: Rodeo
State Nosh: Chislic
State Dessert: Kuchen
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.


The state 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. Tourism is also a significant contributor, bringing in about $2 billion annually. The service sector, retail, trade and manufacturing industries account for the majority of the state's employment.


Famous South Dakotans

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 The Price Is Right
Tom Brokaw - former NBC Nightly News anchor
Mary Hart - former Entertainment Tonight co-host
Cheryl Ladd - actress, Charlie's Angels
Al Neuharth - founder of USA Today and the Freedom Forum
Pat O'Brien - former Access Hollywood co-host
"Mean" Gene Okerlund - longtime WWE announcer, member of South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Shawn Colvin - singer and songwriter
Kyle Evans - singer and songwriter, South Dakota Centennial Troubadour
January Jones - actress, Mad Men and X-Men: First Class
Myren Floren - musician, best known as accordionist on The Lawrence Welk Show
Dave Dedrick - broadcaster, best known for his role as Captain 11
Bruce Williams and Terry Ree - musicians/comedians known as Williams & Ree

Native Americans

Crazy Horse - Native American chief (Oglala Lakota)
Sitting Bull - Native American chief (Hunkpapa Lakota)
Kevin Locke - hoop dancer and flute player (Standing Rock Lakota)
Billy Mills - Olympic athlete and humanitarian (Oglala Lakota)
Benjamin Reifel - former U.S. congressman and U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs (Rosebud Lakota)
Russell Means - actor and activist (Oglala Lakota)
Oscar Howe - artist (Yanktonai Dakota)
Black Elk - medicine man, warrior, educator and holy man whose stories were captured in Black Elk Speaks (Oglala 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
Dick Termes - artist, creator of the Termesphere

Athletes and Sports Figures

Sparky Anderson - former professional baseball manager
Casey Tibbs - professional rodeo, bronc rider
Adam Vinatieri - professional football
Chad Greenway - professional football
Mike Miller - professional basketball
Becky Hammon - professional basketball
Brock Lesnar - professional wrestling


Ernest O. Lawrence - inventor of the cyclotron, winner of the 1939 Nobel Prize
Theodore Schultz - economist, winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize for Economics

Wild West Legends

James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok
Martha "Calamity Jane" Cannary
John "Potato Creek Johnny" Perrett - prospector credited with finding the largest piece of gold in the Black Hills


Fun Facts


Standing 500 feet above the ground, the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore are 60 feet tall, the same size as a six-story building.

South Dakota is home to two of the world’s longest caves. Stretching more than 150 miles, Jewel Cave National Monument is the third-longest cave in the world. Wind Cave National Park is home to the sixth-longest cave.

It’s widely believed that the twister in the opening scenes of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz was based on an experience the author had with a tornado while living in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Because of its enduring popularity, Mount Rushmore has been featured in some form in numerous comic books (Superman, Daredevil, Wonder Woman, Incredible Hulk), motion pictures (North by Northwest, Mars Attacks!, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, The Muppets, Team America: World Police, Superman II, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Nebraska), television shows (Futurama, House of Cards) and video games (Cruis’n USA, Pilotwings 64, The Crew, Need for Speed: The Run).

Laura Ingalls Wilder spent her childhood on the family’s homestead near De Smet. Charles, Caroline, Carrie, Mary and Grace Ingalls are all buried in the De Smet Cemetery, along with the infant son of Laura and Almanzo Wilder. Wilder’s experiences on the prairies of South Dakota inspired many of her popular books.

Movies filmed in South Dakota include Dances With Wolves, North by Northwest, How The West Was Won, Into The WildStarship Troopers, Thunderheart, and National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery explored modern-day South Dakota via the Missouri River in September/October 1804.

The Missouri National Recreational River in southeastern South Dakota is 100 miles of free-flowing river. It’s one of the few stretches of the Missouri that has never been dammed or channeled, leaving it as wild as it was in the days of Lewis & Clark.

At 7,242 feet, Black Elk Peak near Custer State Park is the highest summit between the Rocky Mountains and the Pyrenees Mountains in France.

South Dakota boasts more miles of shoreline than the state of Florida.

The Anne Hathaway Cottage in Wessington Springs is the only structure in the Midwest region to have a thatched roof.

The World's Largest Pheasant sculpture in Huron measures 40 feet from beak to tail.

The exterior of the World's Only Corn Palace in Mitchell features art made up of more than 275,000 ears of corn.

South Dakota has museums specificially devoted to geology, musical instruments, motorcycles, mining, automobiles and vinegar!

The Homestake Gold Mine in Lead was the largest and deepest gold mine in history until its closure in 2002. Today it is home to a cutting-edge laboratory called Sanford Underground Research Facility. Admission is free, but you can spend $5 to hit a golf ball into the adjacent, 1,250-foot-deep Open Cut.