Thursday, June 29, 2017

Mobridge, South Dakota

June 18 - 24, 2017:  Road to Nowhere - part II

It’s 116 beautiful, windy miles across the plains on routes 83 North and 12 West to Mobridge, South Dakota.  This big sky country is somehow as beautiful as anyplace I’ve ever been to although I still wouldn't want to live here.  I’ve been reading the book I recently bought, the “Zen of the Plains” and I definitely feel some of it, (naturally), but the book itself was basically an annoying read. Another book I am reading, “The Last Prairie” is a far better.

I made a stop on the road for this view

Stopped on the tracks for this one

We arrive at the “Bay at Grand River Casino and Resort" campground in the early afternoon about 2 miles outside of Mobridge and just over the Lake Oahe bridge on the Missouri River.  This Casino complex is owned by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and they have a developed campground with electric sites, dump station and water spigots.  It has grass and trees with fire pits and is a bargain at $12 a night.

The Lake Oahe Bridge over the Missouri River

There isn't much room to spare on this Bridge

After setting up camp we take a ride to downtown Mobridge to scout around.  We find a small downtown business area with several nice brick buildings, the Scherr-Howe Event Center with 10 historic WPA murals, a nice Park with beautiful flower beds and a historic metal clad bank (1 of only 7 in the US), a operating drive-in theater and a classic old wooden rodeo arena where they hold the Sitting  Bull Stampede Rodeo.  It’s a nice town, but unless you boat, fish or hunt there’s not a lot to do. 

Mobridge Rodeo Arena home of the Sitting Bull Stampede

Stampede painting on downtown restaurant window

The Scherk-Howe Event Center

Murals were all done by Crow Creek Sioux member Oscar Howe
funded by the WPA in 1941-1942

This mural depicts Oscar Howe's grandfather, "Don't know how",
who was one of the "Fools Soldiers" who rescued several anglo
women and children held captive by the Sioux

Post office mural

The Brown Palace Hotel built in 1915-1918 that is listed
on the register of historic places 

Down Mobridge view

The Rustic Inn sign with western mural and Water Tower

Centennial Plaza with old Mobridge photos

Mobridge was formerly the home of the Arikara and Sioux tribes and became the town of Mobridge in 1906 with the coming of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad.  The Railroad built a bridge over the Missouri River in 1906 and abbreviated the words Missouri and Bridge into “Mobridge” which became the town’s name.  The first settler is believed to have been Lewis Larson from Sweden followed by several Norwegian families. This area continued to be settled by people of Scandinavian decent.

This area west of the Missouri River continues to be native American Indians with the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation to the south and the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to the north.  After riding on both sides of the river, I have to say (no surprise) that the best farm land seems to be on the non reservation side.

The Railroad Bridge over the Missouri River

We visited the highly rated Klein Museum in Mobridge and found it full of amazing artifacts and stories. They have a 1950’s house with an interior about as original as can be found open for display and a log cabin filled with scale model agricultural tractors and machinery.  The models were all part of a collection of a local farmer, some were bought, some handmade by himself and several that were fully operational. 

A few of the great chiefs and many local artifacts

Low Dog became a chief at 14 and fought with
Sitting Bull at the battle of Little Big Horn.  He
certainly looks scary in this picture.

Another great chief whose name was used for one of the most 
famous trains of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St Paul Railroad

Model tractors and farm implement collection

Beautiful full size Case Threshing Machine

The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is home to the Lakota and Dakota tribes and consists of 2.3 million acres spanning South Dakota and North Dakota and is roughly the size of the state of Connecticut.  It is the fifth largest reservation in the US.  The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has gained much attention with the controversy over the pipeline in North Dakota, however I see no signs of this in Mobridge.

I traveled around the Sioux reservation to the towns of Wakpala, Kenel, Fort Hayes, McLaughlin and Trail City.  I also took an interesting unpaved road south of McLaughlin to Wakpala.  I had mixed feelings as I rode around; most of the towns look to be at the poverty level, but the surrounding farm and ranch country seemed to be productive and doing much better. 

View downhill from the Grand River Casino, the Water Tower can be seen for many miles

A group of Tee Pees set up on the reservation

Interesting sign in front of a house in McLaughlin

Cattle on the range

Buffalo are back !

Town of Mahto, the Dew Drop Inn was nearby but not open

Elizabeth's Mission is still in service

Burial site of famed Indian chief Gall 

Ft. Yates off route 1806, over the border, in North Dakota is the largest city on the reservation and is the Tribal Administration Center of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.  They have a couple of notable monuments, the actual “Standing Rock”  for which the tribe is named and the original grave site of Sitting Bull.  I was quite surprised to find the Standing Rock sitting on a almost crumbling pedestal in a parking lot and Sitting Bulls monument sitting amidst weeds and broken glass.  The Indians don’t seem to feel the need to glorify their past heroes in monuments like we anglos do, they operate on a far different mental state.   

Sitting Bulls original grave site

The Sitting Rock that is revered and was carried around for generations

A few miles from the Grand River Casino on route 1806 on a bluff overlooking Lake Oahe is the current burial site of Sitting Bull marked with a iconic monument.  A short distance away is a monument honoring Sacagawea or Sakakawea (depending on which spelling you choose), the famous indian woman who was of great assistance to the Lewis and Clark expedition.  There is some controversy over Sitting Bull as he was originally buried in Fort Yates.  Family members supposedly moved his body to be closer to his original home land on the bluff in 1953, but others disagree.  I will say that the bluff is a much more inspirational final resting place. We were inspired enough to stop at the Casino afterwards and donate some of our money to the Standing River Tribe.

Sacagawea Monument

Sitting Bull grave stone with the mysterious eyes

Sitting Bull Grave and monument overlooking the river

The small farming town of Hoven, SD is renown for its “Cathedral of the Plains”.  The St. Anthony of Padua Church was built in 1921 at a cost of a quarter of a million dollars.  That was a huge amount of money for a small farming community in 1921and would equate to tens of millions today.  The Church seats 1,000 people, is 140 feet tall, 161 feet long and 64 feet wide.  It has stained glass windows fabricated by Bavarian artisans although much of the building was done by local labor.  The Church was completely restored in 1980’s, which was another intensive undertaking. 

The Church from the front

Church entrance, I like the gargoyle looking figures 

Beauitful stained glass windows

Interior of the Church is special

Our original plan was to leave Mobridge on Wednesday or Thursday for Bismarck, North Dakota.  However, when we researched area campgrounds for availability we found that due to a baseball tournament in Bismarck on the weekend, all campsites were reserved.  As we have no schedule to maintain or a place we have to be at, we just extended here for another four days, sometimes no plan is the best plan.

I’m starting to get tired of these towns that roll up the sidewalks at 6 PM and hope to find something more lively at our next stop in Bismarck, North Dakota;

Twinkles and Slick

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