We left Denver and continued to head toward South Dakota. Cheyenne, Wyoming was a convenient place for a stopover on the way. We stayed two nights which gave us a full day to explore Wyoming’s state capitol.
Having just been to Denver, Colorado’s state capitol, we were really struck by the difference. Downtown Cheyenne was quiet with little traffic and few people milling around. Finding a parking place or slowing down to take pictures was not a problem. It looked like any small western city. We noticed several statues of eight foot tall boots located around the city. Our favorite boot was one with the capitol painted on it. The boots were created for a fundraiser for the Cheyenne Depot Museum in 2004. Nineteen boots were painted and decorated by local artists and auctioned off. We enjoyed finding them as we toured the town.
We had planned on taking the route through Lusk, Wyoming to cross over into South Dakota. All the rain and flooding changed our plans. The major bridge in Lusk had been washed out and roads were closed with flash flood warnings still in effect so we took a route across the plains of Nebraska. We crossed mile after mile of farmland and open plains. As we neared the South Dakota line we began to see some interesting rock formations in Nebraska and the weather deteriorated with rain and fog quickly moving in making visibility poor. I wasn’t able to get a picture of the South Dakota welcome sign because of the rain and fog. Rats!! It was a nice one with a picture of Mount Rushmore.
Once in South Dakota we traveled through a part of Wind Cave National Park. We stopped along the side of the road to look at some buffalo right by the car. Some were busy drinking from a small mud puddle. With the windows open we could hear them slurping and snorting as they drank.
After a long seven and a half hour drive we arrived at a campground in Hill City, about fifteen minutes from Mount Rushmore. We stayed at a nice private campground and enjoyed watching the birds who often gathered at the bird feeder outside our door.
Some facts about Cheyenne:
- With a population of 62,400, it is still the most populous city in Wyoming.
- It is named for the Cheyenne nation, one of the Great Plains Tribes.
- It began in 1867 during the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad and as a headquarters for cavalry troops protecting pioneers and railroad workers. Originally called Fort Russell and later renamed F. E. Warren Air Force Base, it is one of the nation’s oldest continually active installations.
- Back in the mid 19th century it was overrun with gamblers, cowboys and speculators, earning it the name “Hell on Wheels”. By 1869 it had been cleaned up and became the capitol in 1890 when Wyoming became the 44th state.
- Nellie Tayloe Ross, the first woman governor in the country is from Cheyenne.
- Wild Bill Hickok and sportscaster Curt Gowdy are from Cheyenne. We were unable to get a reservation at Curt Gowdy State Park because it was full.