A remarkable resource, the hatchery is one of the best spots in the Hills for a romantic stroll, a family day outÉ or a sneaky way to educate children! It was built in 1899 to stock trout in the Black Hills area, and all the way to Yellowstone. Still functional, the hatchery currently produces about 25,000 rainbow trout annually. The facility offers an underwater viewing area, tours of the Booth house, a museum and a gift shop. ThereÕs also a refurbished railway car that was custom built to transport fish, and an icehouse. The hatchery offers several short hikes (a little strenuous), opportunities to feed fish and ducks, and a park-like environment complete with bronze statuary.
The facility is adjacent to the main city park, beautifully laid out along Spearfish Creek that includes a huge playground, picnic tables along the river, restrooms and basketball courts, and a large, quite beautiful campground. Admission to both park and hatchery is free. On the third weekend in July, the park hosts one of the regionÕs largest outdoor festivals, an event that includes art, music, food, kidsÕ activities and vendors.
423 Hatchery Circle (a block west of Main)
The Center includes a five-state pioneer museum (ND, SD, MT, WY and NE), and has more than 20,000 square feet of exhibits featuring Western art, artifacts and memorabilia - including the original Spearfish to Deadwood stagecoach! ThereÕs a turn-of-the-century kitchen, a saddle shop and smithy, and fine representations of forestry, mining, ranching and rodeo. Outside, families can visit the Longhorn cattle, a furnished log cabin, a rural schoolhouse and antique farm equipment. Upstairs, enjoy a three state view from the balcony, or visit the book and gift shop. 2015 rates were $10 for adults, $3 for 6 to 16 year olds, and $22 for a family.
From I-90 take Exit 14 to the frontage road, go left/east to Heritage Drive (past the car dealership), take a right and then go about a mile south on Heritage. The Center is on top of the hill, on the right.
825 Heritage Drive
At the heart of SpearfishÕs arts scene, the facility was originally dedicated in 1906 and completely restored by 2006. It had been built with private funds by a rancher from nearby Wyoming, Thomas Matthews, and over the past century has been home to movies, sports events and dramatic productions. Today, it is home to a very active community theater company with plays, concerts and other entertainments offered year round. For upcoming performances, click on ŌEventsÕ on the website.
612 Main Street
One of the best drives/motorcycle rides in America!
Leaving Spearfish, one passes a small segment of original plains grasses on the right, just before the Forest Service parking area. A sharp curve a couple of miles into the canyon indicates that youÕve reached Split Rock. Pull over for a minute and absorb the atmosphere: cliffs several hundred feet tall all around, and below your feet the creek has gone partially underground as it flows through a series of limestone caverns. The rock was split to make way for the railroad 120 years ago. Moving along, one can eat lunch at the Botany Bay picnic area on the right, or pass Bridal Veil Falls a little farther along on the left. Here, a small parking area and observation deck let you photograph the 60 foot waterfall, which is a raging torrent in spring and often a mere trickle by late summer.
DevilÕs Bathtub is next. ItÕs on the left (going south from Spearfish), and the trailhead is at Cleopatra Place. ItÕs about a mile, following the creek, and expect to get your feet wet. The tub itself is a swirling pond with a small waterfall and caves. Be careful swimming. As with most of the canyon, the surroundings are breathtakingly beautiful.
At Mile 20, two Kissing Rocks sit in the stream to your left, and to the right is the almost hidden entrance to the Eleventh Hour Gulch trail (look for a small waterfall). A favorite among locals, this is an arduous climb over fallen boulders, but worth the effort. You can follow the creek and hike upward through the gulch, all the way to the rim of the canyon 1,000 above, if you have the right stuff.
If you missed lunch at Botany Bay, there are several more breathtakingly beautiful picnic sites along the canyon, including Long Valley at the confluence of Iron Creek and Spearfish Creek. In the little village of Savoy, visit the hidden Spearfish Falls on the east side of the road (a bit of a climb), or the gentle park at Roughlock Falls a mile up the gravel road beside the hotel on the west. Keep going past Roughlock Falls and a couple of miles later youÕll arrive at the spot where the winter scenes in Dances With Wolves were filmed. There are walking/hiking/horseback trails all over this area, including the two Rimrock Trails (one begins at the Rod & Gun campground, the other at the Timon campground, as does the Little Spearfish trail). Other trails worth checking out online are the 1.2 mile, fairly steep 76 Trail to BuzzardÕs Roost that begins near the entrance to Roughlock Falls.
Back in Savoy, spend a moment among the plants in the Latchstring parking lotÕs Native Botanical Garden, all of which are designed to live with low moisture and high altitude. This whole area is especially impressive during fall colors.
There are several other small treasures to stop and explore along the canyon as one heads south from Savoy, including ponds and perches overlooking the stream. At the south end, where Hwy 14 meets Hwy 85, is one of the localsÕ favorite eateries, Cheyenne Crossing. To complete a loop, go left (east) on 85 and it will bring you to Lead, then Deadwood, and finally back to the Interstate at Exit 17, about five miles east of Spearfish.
Elkhorn Ridge Golf Club is a modern Championship course open to the public. Its second nine is scheduled to open in August 2016 (call to confirm). The course features Ņbreathtaking views of the historic Centennial Valley. These challenging 9 holes afford over 285 feet of elevation change, hidden canyons, elevated tees, and broad sloping greens. All levels of players can enjoy five different teeing areas on each of the nine holes. Play 18 holes from the ŌTipsÕ and the course stretches over 7,300 yards and is rated at 74.8 from the Championship Tees. Enjoy ElkhornÕs practice facilities featuring double-ended teeing areas, multiple target greens, and a greenside practice bunker allowing for all types of short-game sharpening.Ó
6845 St. Onge Road (Exit 17 off I-90)
About as pretty as a golf course can be, it was opened in 1921 and offers 18 holes of spectacular scenery. The original front nine (3138 yards) has challenging small greens and lots of elevation changes. The new back nine (3529 yards) is a links style, with rolling hills and large greens. The 19th hole is the Fairway Junction Bar & Grille, with a full liquor license and an extensive menu.
120 Spearfish Canyon Road
The Matthews Opera House & Arts Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization located downtown on the Main Street. It was built in 1906 and has gone through many lives. Upstairs, the theatre provides community plays, national performance acts and music concerts. Downstairs, the gallery is small but impressive, featuring the work of about fifty local artists at any one time.
612 Main Street
Located in the old Walmart store, the Spearfish Recreation & Aquatics Center features cardio equipment, weight machines, a walking and running track, two basketball courts, billiard tables and batting cages, but its centerpiece is an outdoor waterpark. It has a ŌBubble Vortex PitÕ, a lazy river, double flume slides, a drop slide, a climbing wall and a three-lane pool. Impressive. In early 2016, rates for the waterpark were $8 for adults, $6 for kids, and free for 3 and under. They charge $3 for ŌspectatorsÕ: adults who like to be poolside on the sun chairs, supervising kids or grandkids.
122 Recreation Lane
Spearfish Splash Park (free)
From the EXIT 14 bridge (the one for Walmart), go south to the frontage road, take a left and go about three blocks to Heritage Drive - the road to the Heritage Center. Go south on this to 7th. Avenue, and then go east (left) three blocks where you'll see a small park on your left. There, between the picnic shelter and the basketball court, is a free splash pad - in effect, a mini water park with fountains and jets that is absolutely perfect for kids about ten and under. There's a portable potty on site for emergencies, and shade for a picnic.
122 Recreation Lane
While Dick Termes has been a Spearfish treasure for decades, the rest of the world is also familiar with his work. Celebrated from Tokyo to New York, his ŌTermespheresÕ adorn homes and public spaces around the globe, and are part of many prestigious collections. They hang in space, powered by electric motors, and rotate slowly.
ŅWhat you are seeing when you look at a Termesphere painting is an optical illusionÓ his website says. ŅItÕs an inside-out view of the total physical world around you on the outside surface of a hanging and rotating sphere. If you were on the inside of this sphere, this painted image around you would seem normal, but it is read from the outside. From any point when you look at the spherical paintings, the image reads correctly. Termespheres capture the up, down and all around visual world from one revolving point in space.Ó
Mixing geometry and fine art, the gallery is a visual feast that plays with the intellect as much as the senses. ItÕs located on a gravel road a couple of miles southeast of town. If you have an art student in the family, it will be difficult to get them to leave. Call for an appointment, and directions.
1920 Christensen Drive
Located off the I-90 frontage road near the Wyoming border, the hatchery is a beautiful spot to bring kids to learn. It provides trout and salmon for stocking in the Black Hills, Missouri River reservoirs and eastern South DakotaÕs lakes and streams. There are 8 covered raceways outdoors, along with 3 spring-fed production ponds and a natural sinkhole display pond thatÕs 121 feet deep! Interpretive signs provide a self-guided tour, and most kids go a little nuts over all the fish. After visiting the hatchery, there are a number of small lakes and fishing ponds next door to the west, and these are a wonderful spot for fishing and picnics. Please note that nonresidents under age 16 do not need a South Dakota fishing license as long as they are fishing with an adult who has a valid South Dakota fishing license. (The kidÕs fish must be included in the daily and possession limit of the parent or guardian.) Youth wishing to take their own limit of fish may purchase a nonresident fishing license. And if thereÕs still time, just a few minutes west of the hatchery on the frontage road is the Vore Buffalo Jump (see the Wyoming section of this Guide). Within the site are the butchered remnants of as many as 10,000 bison as well as thousands of chipped stone arrow points, knives, and other tools. To find the hatchery, from Exit 2 follow the service road on the north side of the interstate back toward Spearfish for a few hundred yards until you see the signs.
19619 Trout Loop
The Lakota successfully kept gold fever at bay in the Black Hills until CusterÕs expedition of 1874. Forty years prior to that, the tribes dispatched a group of seven prospectors after discovering gold. The last of them, Ezra Kind, scratched his tale onto soft sandstone on Lookout Mountain (itÕs on display at the Adams Museum in Deadwood) before the Indians got him. At a site on the other side of the valley, with a great view of Lookout, a group of history enthusiasts have erected a replica of the Thoen stone (so named in honor of Louis Thoen who discovered it in 1887), and a small monument. From Jackson Street, take St. Joe and walk up the hill. There are markers, and itÕs a short, easy hike.
Lookout Mountain Park, on the east side of the Interstate in Spearfish, is 750 acres reserved for hiking and mountain biking, and some of the trails are kept up. To climb the mountain from the east, go south on the Main Street which becomes Colorado Boulevard. Just past the golf course, take a left on Sandstone Hills Drive and go under the Interstate. Veer left on Sandstone to Branding Iron Drive and take a right. Go three blocks to Pony Express Lane and find a spot to park that wonÕt annoy the residents. The trailhead here leads to the top of Lookout Mountain. To climb from the west, go up Jackson Street to 10th (a block shy of the Interstate), take a left and go four blocks to Nevada, and find a parking spot. Then walk under the Interstate and up the trails to the top. ItÕs a serious hike, not for the infirm but well within the scope of kids. ItÕs about 1.5 to 2 miles long, depending on your route, and the steepest part comes first.
Bring your camera!
This adventure takes most of a day. ItÕs 3.5 miles each way (vertically only 1,500 feet), and the views from the top at 5,750 feet are astonishing. Hiking, biking and horseback are allowed: no motorized vehicles. View the devastation caused by a 2016 forest fire across more than a thousand acres on the southwest slopes. At the Burger King in Spearfish, head west on Hillsview Road to Higgins Gulch Road (Forest Service Road 214) and take that for 7 miles to the trailhead. Pack food and water!
Another gem known to the locals, this mountain lake is open to the public for swimming and canoes, but difficult to find. It was created in the 1930s as a WPA project, and is a beautiful spot to bring the kids for an afternoon, or a full day. The store stocks most necessary supplies for camping and picnicking, as well as fishing licenses, lures and bait. It also registers campers, rents paddleboats and serves short order meals and snacks. Camping sites and cabins are available: call for reservations, especially in August.
From Exit 8, take McGuigan Road south toward the hills until it turns into Tinton Road, and follow this for 13 miles after it turns to gravel. On your right, a sign says Beaver Creek Road. Follow this for half a mile to the Iron Creek Lake sign on your left.
20912 Iron Creek Lake Road
Big Hill - X-country skiing and hiking area
This is a well maintained trail network in Black Hills National Forest, about 7 miles southwest of Spearfish on route 134 (gravel). From Exit 8, take McGuigan Road south toward the hills until it turns into Tinton Road, and follow this to the parking lot at Big Hill (signposted). There are 17 total miles of dressed trails, mostly rated moderate with a few difficult. For more info, there is a Black Hills Nordic Ski Club facebook page. The Black Hills National Forest has a page on cross-country skiing (Forest Service pages can be slow to load). And you can download a PDF brochure on Big Hill, with maps.
University St., Unit 9539
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