Spearfish, USA (N. America)

Spearfish, USA (N. America)

What Makes Spearfish, USA Interesting?

The small town is nestled just north of the Black Hills in the U.S. state of South Dakota. She is a picturesque community where friendliness and courtesy are a way of life. Her blue sky, forested hills, and vast prairies offer an appreciation for nature and beauty not often seen in today’s world. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who visited Spearfish Canyon in 1935, later called the area “unique and unparalleled elsewhere in our country.” He wondered, “How is it that I’ve heard so little of this miracle and we, toward the Atlantic, have heard so much of the Grand Canyon when this is even more miraculous?” Native Americans have a long history in this region.
Spearfish Creek is a fast-moving creek that emerges from Spearfish Canyon at Spearfish. The creek is unusual in that it freezes from the bottom up (instead of icing over). The phenomenon is due to the very fast rate at which the creek flows. Friction and turbulence along the bottom of the creek bed allow the water to slow down long enough to freeze. Since the creek continues to flow atop this ice, the water level gradually rises as more ice accumulates. In some cases, this causes flooding on the north side of town where the channel is not as deep. Anther peculiar natural phenomenon can be seen in the city’s holding of the world record for the fastest recorded temperature change. On January 22, 1943 at about 7:30 a.m. MST, the temperature was −4°F (−20°C). The Chinook wind picked up speed rapidly. Two minutes later, the temperature was +45 °F (+7 °C) above zero. The 49 °F (27 °C) rise in two minutes set a world record that still holds today. By 9:00 a.m., the temperature had risen to 54 °F (12 °C). Suddenly, the chinook died down and the temperature tumbled back to −4 °F (−20 °C). The 58 °F (32 °C) drop took just 27 minutes.
The Black Hills (Ȟe Sápa in Lakota, Moʼȯhta-voʼhonáaeva in Cheyenne, awaxaawi shiibisha in Hidatsa) are a small, isolated mountain range. They were so-called because of her dark appearance from a distance, which is due to being densely covered in trees. The pinnacle is Harney Peak, which rises to 7,244 feet (2,208 m). The range is home to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Harney Peak (the highest point in the United States east of the Rockies), Custer State Park (the largest state park in South Dakota, and one of the largest in the US), the Crazy Horse Memorial (the largest sculpture in the world), the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs (the world’s largest mammoth research facility), Spearfish Canyon, historic Deadwood, and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally held each August. Devils Tower is an igneous intrusion or laccolith in the Bear Lodge Mountains (part of the Black Hills) in northeastern Wyoming. Native American names for the monolith include: Aloft on a Rock (Kiowa), Bear’s House (Cheyenne, Crow), Bear’s Lair (Cheyenne, Crow), Daxpitcheeaasáao, “Home of bears” (Crow), Bear’s Lodge (Cheyenne, Lakota), Bear’s Lodge Butte (Lakota), Bear’s Tipi (Arapaho, Cheyenne), Tree Rock (Kiowa), and Grizzly Bear Lodge (Lakota).

At a Glance

Established: 1876
Area: 16.35 sq mi (42.35 km2)
Population (2014): 11,091 (2014 estimate)
People Are Called (Demonyms): South Dakotan, Lakota, Sioux
Time Zone: UTC+7
GPS Coordinates: 44°29′23″N 103°51′9″W
Gross Domestic Product (2013 GDP): USD$5.6 million)

What’s in the Name?

The Lakota (also known as the Sioux Indians) and others would spear fish in the creek (hence the name of the creek and subsequently the town). The Lakota called the land hočhápȟe and the nearby Black Hills by the name Ȟe Sápa (Black Mountains). The town was last called Queen City before taking on its current name.


Native Americans have a long history and have made several territorial claims to sacred land in this region.

7000 BC — Native Americans first settle on the land.
1500s — the Arikara, Cheyenne, Crow, Kiowa, and Pawnee peoples settle in the region.
1700s — the Lakota (also known as Sioux) arrived from Minnesota and drove out the other tribes (who moved west).
1743 — François and Louis de La Vérendrye visited the Black Hills.
1776 — the Lakota conquered the Cheyenne.
1854-1891 — the Sioux Wars unfolded (U.S. vs Lakota)
1854-1856 — the first Sioux War battle unfolded (U.S. vs Lakota).
1862-64 — the Dakota War ensued when the U.S. government failed to deliver annuity payments promised in the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, 1851 (U.S. vs Lakota).
1865 — the Powder River War was a “punitive expedition” by the U.S. against the Lakota/Arapaho/Cheyenne.
1866-68 — Red Cloud’s War took place (U.S. vs Lakota)
1868 — the U.S. government signed the Fort Laramie Treaty, which exempted the Black Hills from white settlement forever and created the Great Sioux Reservation (all South Dakota territory west of the Missouri river as far as the Yellowstone and North Platte rivers).
1874 — European Americans discovered gold as a result of George Armstrong Custer’s Black Hills Expedition.
1876-1877 — the Great Sioux War took place (U.S. vs. Lakota/Cheyenne)
1876 — the Lakota/Arapaho/Cheyenne defeat U.S. forces at the Battle of Little Big Horn; General Custer makes his last stand; Spearfish is founded.
1887 — discovery of the Thoen Stone spoke of Ezra Kind’s 1834 demise: “got all the gold we could carry, lost my gun, nothing to eat, Indians hunting me.”
1890-1891 — the Ghost Dance War took place, culminating in the Wounded Knee Massacre; a treaty broke up the remaining Sioux Reservation’s 35,000 acres (142 km²) into six small reservations; this was the last major conflict between U.S. forces and the Lakota.
1900 — the town reaches 1,000 residents (1,166 by year’s end).
1935 — architect Frank Lloyd Wright visited Spearfish Canyon.
1938 — the first Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was held in the region.
2010 — the town reaches 10,000 residents (10,494 in the 2010 Census).

Photo Gallery

The below images have been licensed through Big Stock Photo and other resources for editorial purposes only.


Spearfish WikipediaBlack Hills Wikipedia • Feature, Rapid City Journal: “Forum Explores How Misunderstanding Sparked Wounded Knee Massacre
• A complete archive of curated articles is forthcoming on this destination (see page on Dhaka, Bangladesh for the model).


Spearfish has a semi-arid climate, with four distinct seasons and nearly 227 days of sunshine a year. Mild, sunny days are common throughout the winter and occasional “Chinook” or warm winds frequently come as a pleasant surprise. Temperatures range from 3.6°C / 38.4°F in July to 29.9°C / 85.9°F in January/February.


Once coined the “fasting growing town in the Midwest,” Spearfish has strong roots in education, health care, tourism, mining, and timber. The economy has grown at a steady rate of 3% annually and has diversified substantially over the past 25 years. Abundant natural resources, well-educated workforce, access to major transportation routes, and its ideal location have been catalysts for economic growth.


Aside from the inviting beauty and draw of the Black Hills of South Dakota, the city boasts a rich historic past and a wide variety of artistic and cultural outlets. Black Hills State University and the Mathews Opera House & Center for Arts provide the backdrop for much of these activities in the community. Because of her large tourism industry, several area attractions educate and entertain area residents as well as tourists. It is commonplace to find more than one festival or event taking place at any one time. The Mathews Opera House Theatre stages several professional traveling theatre productions. The Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary is home to over 300 animals of 40 different species including tigers, leopards, bears, African lions, and more. The D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery hosts grand daddy trout. BHSU Summer Stage offers affordable live theatre entertainment during the month of July and the first week of August. The High Plains Western Heritage Center honors old west pioneers. The Festival in the Park is one of the largest outdoor summer arts festivals in the upper Midwest United States. The annual event is held the third weekend in July and attracts over 150 juried arts and crafts plus 25 food booths with an emphasis on handmade. During the summer months, from the second Friday in June until Labor Day Weekend, visitors can enjoy Downtown Friday Nights Concert Series.

Video Gallery


South Dakota is one of 24 U.S. states without a major sports team. Major league sports in America include Major League Baseball (MLB), Major League Soccer (MLS), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), and the National Hockey League (NHL). As an example of how removed the residents are from a professional team, local American football fans tend to follow the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. Their stadium is 655 miles away and a nearly 10-hour drive by car. Replacing this sporting passion, Spearfish is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true. There are abundant opportunities for fishing, rafting, hiking, bicycling, boating, and more. Paved walking and biking trail systems are standard throughout the community enabling residents of all ages to safely walk, bike, and enjoy the outdoors. National parks and forests, state parks, county parks, and city parks, as well as designated open space and open land areas, are found throughout the region and are treasured by residents. Situated on the edge of a 1.2 million acre national forest, the region provides endless opportunities for playing outside.


Black Hills Airport in Spearfish is the largest and fastest growing general airport in South Dakota. It is only four miles from downtown. Annual flights exceed 5,000. Commercial services are available at Rapid City Regional Airport, a 45 minute drive from Spearfish. Spearfish is headquarters and hometown of two bus and coach transport services: Dakota Trailways and Prairie Hills Transit. The average one-way commute is 16 minutes. 77% of commuters drive their own car alone, 9% carpool with others, and 4% work from home. The number of residents who take public transportation is 73.9% less than the South Dakota average and 97.1% less than the U.S. national average.


Phone & Email

(202) 417-READ (main)

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