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Flag and survey marker.

Center of the Nation: 50 States

Field review by the editors.

Belle Fourche, South Dakota

It's difficult to imagine a more important American center than the Center of the 50 States, and yet among the USA's cornucopia of centers it is the most modest. There's not much to see, it's not near anything, and for years it was confused (at least by us) with the more prominent Center of the 49 States, which was nearby, had an additional Sheepherders Monument and it's own postcard, and is now abandoned.

Survey marker.

The Center of the 50 States never even got the chance to be formerly famous. It was, and remains, a metal pole stuck into a pasture about 50 yards off of a gravel road, behind a ditch and a barbed wire fence. A concrete slab with the small survey marker is at the base of the pole, which sometimes is helpfully topped with an American flag. A home-made Center of the Nation sign may or may not be hanging from the fence, which you have to duck under to get to the pole. The farmer doesn't mind visitors -- but there are bugs, and possibly snakes.

The tourism industry is built on laziness, and we love attractions that are right off of an interstate as much as anyone. But there's also satisfaction in visiting a spot that you have to drive out of your way to get to, and that you know will be mostly in your mind when you get there. The Center of the 50 States is that kind of place. "It's for people who are die-hards," said Teresa Schanzenbach of the Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce. "A lot of people are happy that it's just a fence post in a pasture."

Center of the Nation: 50 States

Old US 85, Belle Fourche, SD
I-90 exit 10. US 85 north 24.5 miles. (13.5 miles from the intersection of US 212.) Turn left (west) onto Old Hwy 85 (a gravel road) and drive 7.8 miles until you see a large metal hay storage shed on your left. On the right you'll see a red metal post about 50 yards into a pasture, sometimes topped with an American flag. At its base is a concrete slab with the survey marker. A home-made Center of the Nation sign may or may not be hanging from the fence in front of the pasture.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Abandoned Shepherds MonumentAbandoned Shepherds Monument, Belle Fourche, SD - 10 mi.
Center of the Nation MonumentCenter of the Nation Monument, Belle Fourche, SD - 21 mi.
Teddy Roosevelt Friendship TowerTeddy Roosevelt Friendship Tower, Deadwood, SD - 39 mi.
In the region:
Statue #13: Millard Fillmore, Rapid City, SD - 67 mi.

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