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Will Bill's poker hand of death has been recreated ad infinitum in Deadwood attractions.
Will Bill's poker hand of death has been recreated ad infinitum in Deadwood attractions.

Deadwood: Sin, Gold, Blood

Deadwood, South Dakota

Deadwood is locked in a high-stakes game with Tombstone as the Wild West town with the best Wild West name. Pick your favorite; there are no losing hands here. We've visited many a town that's desperate to find an identity. Deadwood will never have that problem.

Site of Wild Bill's death.

Starting out as a 19th century gold mining boom-and-bust burg, Deadwood now thrives as a 21st century destination thanks to modern casinos and a romantic past of prostitution, opium, whiskey, gambling, gunrunning, and mindless violence. Deadwood's roster of skanky yet colorful drunks, prospectors, and murderers such as Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Poker Alice, and Potato Creek Johnny embody its charm. Darrel Nelson at Deadwood's Adams Museum described Deadwood's early citizens as "people who would be outcasts anywhere else." He also noted that the quickest way to get famous in Deadwood was to shoot somebody else.

Eclectic seating in The Stockade.
Eclectic seating in The Stockade.

Deadwood enjoyed a surge in popularity thanks to an HBO series (2004-06) and a revival movie (2019) but we liked ol' Deadwood even before the TV hoopla, with its quirky museums, casinos, monuments, and graves of Wild West legends. Nestled in the crook of an evergreen-forested gulch, its attractions are easy to take in, running along a road or two through town. Summer evenings feature live Wild West gunfights on Main Street, and the town's historic hotel is haunted.

Deadwood's abundance of dry, fallen timber blessed the town with a name, but cursed it with a wicked combustibility. Its conflagrations were usually met with shrugs by whoever survived, and Deadwood today is still inhabited by gritty survivors, using its casino money to preserve its outlaw charm. The entire town is the second largest historical restoration project in the U.S. (Or so we were told by the owner of the Old Style Saloon No. 10).

Not bad for a place of only 900 people, whose residents are often outnumbered by bikers, Mount Rushmore runaways, and rootin' tootin' tourists.

Gunfighters of Deadwood.
Gunfighters of Deadwood.

Our winning hand of Deadwood attractions includes:

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