Geographic Center of the Nation.

Center of the Nation Monument

Field review by the editors.

Belle Fourche, South Dakota

The center of America hasn't changed since August 21, 1959, when Hawaii became the 50th state. At some point shortly afterward, the center was marked with a metal pole stuck into a pasture, off of a gravel road behind a ditch, 22 miles north of Belle Fourche, South Dakota.

Center of the Nation Monument.

It's still there, and tourists can still drive to it, but Belle Fourche thought that something as important as America's center needed a monument that was more memorable, as well as one that was more accessible.

As Teresa Schanzenbach of the Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce told us, "We haven't even had a post card, because a post card of a fence post really doesn't cut it."

So on August 21, 2007, slightly in advance of the 50th anniversary of Hawaii's statehood, Belle Fourche dedicated its elaborate "Geographic Center of the Nation" monument. It's in town, behind the Visitor Center, close to major highways, parking lots, rest rooms, and the Belle Fourche Pizza Hut. Made of granite, it's designed in the shape of a giant compass, flat on the ground, with a map of the U.S. and Belle Fourche at its center, marked with an official-looking metal disk. Visitors instinctively understand that they should stand on the disk for photos, a you-are-standing-on-the-spot reaction pioneered by the monument at Four Corners.

Belle Fourche insists that it's not trying to mislead anyone with its 22-miles-off-center Center, and indeed anyone visiting it during Visitor Center hours can get directions and a map to the real center, a 35 minute drive away. "If you want to go there," said Teresa, "go for it."

Center of the Nation Monument

Address:
415 Fifth Ave., Belle Fourche, SD
Directions:
I-90 exit 10. US 85 north ten miles. A couple of blocks north of the railroad tracks at Faulk St., on the right, on the north side of the Visitor Information Center and Tri-State Museum.
Hours:
Tu-Sa 10-4 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
605-723-1200
Admission:
Monument: free. Museum: $2
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Center of the Nation: 50 StatesCenter of the Nation: 50 States, Belle Fourche, SD - 21 mi.
Teddy Roosevelt Friendship TowerTeddy Roosevelt Friendship Tower, Deadwood, SD - 20 mi.
Preacher Smith MonumentPreacher Smith Monument, Deadwood, SD - 20 mi.
In the region:
Buffalo Statues, Custer, SD - 64 mi.

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