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Day 3 Wyoming Mt Rushmore Yellowstone Tetons 14 day trip

Cheyenne, Wyoming to Rapid City, South Dakota and the Black Hills - Day 3


Drive time: 5 1/2 hours (highway time)

Hotel in Rapid City SD: Hotel Alex Johnson


Historic Fort Laramie National Historic Site

Oregon Trail Ruts and Register Cliff

Cheyenne to Deadwood Stage Route

During this drive you will experience the subtle beauty of the High Plains and the wide open sky. The people on the Oregon, Bozeman, California, and Mormon Trails were at least three months from civilization and happy to see some other people at Fort Laramie. The Oregon Trail Ruts are a tactile reminder of the difficulty of getting the heavy oak wagons over a small bluff along the North Platte River.

The road from Cheyenne to the Black Hills roughly follows and crisscrosses with the Cheyenne to Deadwood original roads.

In Hot Springs, South Dakota there is the Mammoth Site where many of the extinct beasts perished in a sink hole. You can then skirt the southern edge of the Black Hills to Rapid City.

Directions: US 85 to Torrington, Left on US 26 to Fort Laramie, US 26 to Guernsey, WY and the Oregon Trail Ruts & Register Cliff. Take WY 270 and then US 18 to Lusk, WY,  left on US 85 to Mule Creek Junction, WY, Right on US 18 past Hot Springs, SD, left on SD 79 to Rapid City.

Historic Fort Laramie National Historic Site. This site goes back to the early French trappers. They left the water here and headed southwest to Wyoming and the Colorado Mountains. One trapper started Fort John as a trading post, buying and selling animal pelts and supplies to the trappers, Indians, and traders who traveled to and from St Louis. In 1849 the US Army purchased the fort and converted it to a military operation to protect the immigrants on the trails. 1874 brought the discovery of gold in the Black Hills, resulting in the government withdrawing the northeastern part of Wyoming and all of the Black Hills from the Sioux Reservation. The Sioux did not like the idea, as General George A. Custer found out. During this period Fort Laramie was one of a number of forts involved in the Indian Wars which dissipated in the 1880’s. The fort was closed in 1890, the same year that Wyoming became a state.

Oregon Trail Ruts Wagon wheels, draft animals, and people wore down the trail about two to six feet into a sandstone ridge here during its heavy usage from 1841-1869.  The half-mile stretch is the best-preserved of any of the Oregon Trail ruts along the trail’s length. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966.

The site is maintained as a State Historic Site within Guernsey State Park, which separately was declared a National Historic Landmark for its Civilian Conservation Corps structures, unrelated to the Oregon Trail Ruts.

Register Cliff is about a mile further on the road and to the left. There is a sandstone cliff where hundreds of immigrants on the trails inscribed their names during the 19th century. It is one of three prominent immigrant "recording areas" located within Wyoming.

Cheyenne to Deadwood Stage In the Summer of 1876, several attempts were made to reach Deadwood by stage from Cheyenne, but the stages turned back because of the danger from marauding Indians following the defeat of General Custer at the Little Bighorn. On Sept. 25, 1876, however, Dave Dickey brought the first stage into Deadwood. This route was notorious for its highwaymen and Indian problems. The Sioux Indians were not happy about being pushed off their reservation in northern Wyoming and the Black Hills.

Rapid City Hotel: Hotel Alex Johnson

Major activities: 2 Nights 1 Day

Mt Rushmore National Park

Crazy Horse Memorial

Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Park

Needles Highway and Custer State Park

On to Day 5

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