On Thursday we chose to spend the day touring to our north because our area was predicted to have the hottest day of the year, at 100 degrees! Since the altitude in the far north end of the Black Hills is around 5000 feet and more we thought that might be nicer and that proved to be the case. Tuesday had been our previously hottest day at the mid 90's and the evening followed with a wicked thunderstorm which lasted less than an hour but had very high winds, small hail, and more than 1.2 inches of rain. We thought that we would likely be back before the evening storms so headed out on a beautiful, sunny day.
Our first stop was at Sheridan Lake. This medium sized lake now covers the gold rush townsite of Sheridan and is named for it. It is located to the north of Hill City and along US385. The roads are winding and hilly but easily traversed and the lake has public fishing, boating, and a campground as well as a public marina. It is a very pretty lake with many fishermen.
From there we continued north on US385 and soon approached Pactola Dam & Reservoir. This lake was constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation in the 50's in response to a shortage of water in Rapid City and surrounding area. Today it is also the home to a large federal park and also to a South Dakota state park and is very popular with both boaters and fishermen. There are several really striking views but of particular interest is the island near the day which protrudes sharply out of the waters to a very rocky top. On top of the highest point there is a flagpole with a US flag proudly flying. I asked in the visitor center about it since there is no real place for a boat to land and was told that the owners of the marina got permission to place and maintain that flagpole at his own expense because he just felt that there needed to be one. It even has a solar powered light for nights. It is a very remarkable site to behold. There is a nice visitor center at the east end of the dam structure with a nice size parking lot and also RV parking. They have a scenic overlook and a picnic ground as well.
From here we traveled into Lead which is a mountain mining town that is interesting but small and then to Deadwood where casinos and gambling have invigorated the local economy. We then traveled up to Sturgis, where surprisingly to us; there were very few motorcycles yet, like most of the area has, but lots of activity setting up vendor booths and such for the big biker rally to come in August. It seemed as though the bikers are all gathering outside of Sturgis to suddenly descend when the big day arrives! We then followed a series of canyons back south and returned to Hot Springs, via Custer City.