Skip to Main Content

Belle Fourche, South Dakota: Abandoned Shepherds Monument

Also marks the "Geographic Center of the 49 States," said to be infested with rattlesnakes!

Belle Fourche, SD
Officially closed. Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Save to My Sights

Visitor Tips and News About Abandoned Shepherds Monument

Reports and tips from visitors and Roadside America mobile tipsters. Some tips may not be verified. Submit your own tip.

Abandoned Shepherds Monument

Abandoned Shepherds Monument

The sign no longer says road closed. Now says "Please Close Gate." We drove to the old parking/picnic area. As shared by others, this once nice stop has been abandoned. I don't think rattlesnakes are the reason. The City of Belle Fourche petitioned the USGS to declare their city as the Center of the Nation as it is the closest town. They built a very nice granite marker. I'm fairly sure this is why the former was abandoned (which, BTW, was also not the true center. The true center is a flag in a pasture about 6 miles west of here.)

We live in a rural area with plenty of snakes and are very snake aware. The weather was sunny and in the 70s. We saw zero snakes. I went first and my four and five year old daughters -- who are also snake smart -- followed me. The only hazards were cactus and other spiked plants. We did see numerous holes and places I certainly would not stick my hand into. The trail is still visible but steps have eroded so it was easier to follow beside the old trail.

The views from the top are amazing. The Stone Johnnys have been toppled, but there is one visible to the East that is intact. The girls loved the hike, and I think even in its decay it's well worth the stop. I have no doubt there are snakes around, like all places in western Dakota. Be smart. Be careful and use your best judgment.

[Al Bartell, 09/12/2020]

Thanks for the detailed assessment of the site! Your girls are fearless explorers.

Near the Geographic Center of the 50 States.

Abandoned Sheep Herder 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!

Shepherds Monument

Shepherds Monument

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]

Nearby Offbeat Places

Center of the Nation: 50 StatesCenter of the Nation: 50 States, Belle Fourche, SD - 10 mi.
Flaming Biker with ChainsawFlaming Biker with Chainsaw, Vale, SD - 32 mi.
Muffler Man With Beer MugMuffler Man With Beer Mug, Vale, SD - 32 mi.
In the region:
Statue # 8: Martin van Buren, Rapid City, SD - 64 mi.

Latest Tips Across Roadside America

Catch up on the latest discoveries from the road.

Explore Thousands of Oddball Tourist Attractions!

Unique destinations in the U.S. and Canada are our special obsession. Use our attraction recommendation and maps to plan your next road trip.

My Sights

My Sights on Roadside America

Create Your Own Bizarre Road Trips! ...Try My Sights

Mobile Apps

Roadside America app: iPhone, iPad Roadside America app for iPhone, iPad. On-route maps, 1,000s of photos, special research targets! ...More

Roadside Presidents app: iPhone, iPad Roadside Presidents app for iPhone, iPad. POTUS landmarks, oddities. ...More

South Dakota Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Poozeum: Dinosaur Turds, Williams, Arizona (Jun 10-16, 2024)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings