Buffalo Ridge, South Dakota: 1880 Cowboy Town

Abe Lincoln never visited South Dakota, but his robot is part of a fake 1880s South Dakota main street, built by a retired school teacher. Wild West robots and cryptic displays, too.

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Lincoln robot, 2019.

1880 Cowboy Town

We visited on a beautiful day and were able to find ample parking. In fact, we had the place to ourselves! We got the introductory tour, complete with the complementary animatronic show in the 1970s-era gift shop, which itself was worth the price of admission. 1880 Cowboy Town was so much more than we had hoped for.

President Lincoln is showing his age, but frankly, he's holding together pretty good for someone who is 210 years old. It's true he has lost his hat, his right arm, his left leg (but he still has his left shoe), most of his pants and podium; and even his voice is now out of order.

But there are plenty of other sights here, including a preacher with the bored-stiff congregation of one, a barber with a decapitated customer, and an earless cowboy oozing green goo. "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" was very moving.

It is really difficult to imagine that we could ever visit a site better than this, but we won't stop looking.

[Steve Schrader, 12/01/2019]

Corn Sheller.

Cowboy Ghost Town

We stopped at the Buffalo Ridge Ghost Town mainly due to it was animated. The South Dakota tourism information on this landmark was not the reality. It states that there were 50 animatronic displays, but there were only 10, and only about six worked. We barely could hear the voices. Apparently neglected for decades. Abe Lincoln's arm is a PVC pipe, duct-taped on. Very disappointing. It wasn't worth the $8 admission. Even though it is supposed to feel like an old ghost town, you can tell that it has been neglected.

[Doreen Metts, 09/16/2019]

We may be wrapped too tightly in our own duct tape and PVC pipe, but what you describe sounds wonderful to us. Part of the appeal of 1880 Cowboy Town (now called Buffalo Ridge Ghost Town) is that its builders had a lot of great ideas, and technology limitations and maintenance issues have turned them into a kind of Westworld nightmare.

1880 Cowboy Town

1880 Cowboy Town

We drove by this place twice, thinking it had long been closed. On third pass we noticed a man pumping gas at one of the circa 1970 pumps outside and decided to go in to purchase water. I told the man at the counter that it was a shame that the cowboy town was closed, and he proclaimed that it wasn't, and asked if we would like to see it.

After paying our $8 admission, the man followed us into the the other part of the building and provided us with two quarters to view the first exhibits, as he stood nearby to make sure we watched and listened in its entirety. He is very proud of this place, and excited to tell you all about it. From there he offered the golf cart, or we could walk onto the grounds to see the rest.

This was one of the most entertaining stops on our trip -- especially if you're into quirky roadside attractions.

[Kris, 06/22/2019]

Abe's eyes.

1880 Cowboy Town

As of July 2018, Abe's eyes are unveiled in all their creepy glory! There is no more button to push for the speech. Use your imagination to narrate what must be going through his head. Price as of now is $8 for adults, $4 kids under 15. No dogs allowed in the ghost town, as the neighboring bison don't like dogs!

[Gretchen, 07/13/2018]

Abe Lincoln, 2017.

1880 Cowboy Town

Abe no longer talks these days, just kinda stands there and contemplates State's Rights. Dean Songstad passed away December 23, 2016. Brad is still running 1880 Cowboy Town and imparting western knowledge. Come check the place out!

[Ron Renken, 06/12/2017]

Our forensic scan of Ron's photo notes these changes since our 2008 discovery: 1) his wonky eyes were never repaired, but since the stovepipe hat over them was also traumatizing children, he was outfitted with Lost and Found shades; 2) when Abe's face started sliding off, duct tape secured it to his scalp (hidden beneath his hat); 3) his hat finally fell off, perhaps blown by the cruel winds of entropy.

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1880 Cowboy Town

Buffalo Ridge Ghost Town

46614 W. Hwy 38, Buffalo Ridge, SD
Out behind the Buffalo Ridge Country Store. I-90 exit 390, then drive west a quarter-mile on Hwy 38.
Adults $8, kids under 15 $4.
RA Rates:
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Nearby Offbeat Places

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In the region:
Stand on Three States: Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Valley Springs, SD - 23 mi.

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