Belle Fourche, South Dakota: Abandoned Shepherds MonumentAlso marks the "Geographic Center of the 49 States," but it's now infested with rattlesnakes!
Visitor Tips and News About Abandoned Shepherds Monument
Found the monument by accident and was intrigued. The paved road leading up to the old rest area is now completely gated off, although a person can easily slip through. It is quite obvious, as it has a large "Road Closed" sign over it. It's a decent walk from the highway, but worth it. At the old rest area, there is still a bathroom,what appears to be an old dumping station, and slightly farther uphill, an old base for a picnic shelter. You then hike up a moderate trail to the top, where there are still 2-3 stone cairns, on large rocks. The area is fenced off, but you can slip through the gate for photos. The wooden sign is still there, but fading away.
It seemed odd there would be such development for a seemingly small historical tidbit. When we got home, I did some research. The State of SD got double duty out of it, by using it as the "Geographic Center of the 50 States" marker as well! It's a shame the site has been abandoned. Kind of forlorn now.[Carter Hall, 09/19/2005]
Oh yeah, we remember this place -- in 2003 we tried to visit the "Geographic Center of the 50 States" monument (labeled on old postcards as in Castle Rock, SD). A local rancher warned us that the rocks around the edge of the hill were teeming with rattlesnake nests. "They den up in the buttes and come down to feed on the prairie dog town just south." According to the rancher, they closed the monument and picnic area 7 or 8 years ago due to the rattler infestation. It was dusk, and we were traveling without a snake bite kit, so we continued on to the next marvel. You are warned!
On a hilltop in the quiet and serene South Dakota plains, I found the Shepherds Monument. Many years ago it appeared to be an official state landmark, but has since fallen into disrepair. It has not been maintained in at least 10-15 years. Evidence of its once offical status can be found by an old info/ticket center. A narrow road takes you to the foot of a hill, where you have to leave your car and take a old abandoned path to a fenced in area among the rocks. It takes a little effort but once at the top you will treated to breath taking vista of the plains.
A tired old wooden marker with faded yellow lettering in the fence tells you about the rock formation found behind fence. The story goes that shepherds tending their flocks would pass the time making rock formations.[Guy, 11/09/2000]