State: South Dakota – SD

Published on October 5th, 2015 | by Brandon Ramsey in Geography


Located just beneath North Dakota, the South Dakota state abbreviation is SD. The name of the state comes from the Lakota and Dakota Sioux Native American tribes. Today we’ll be taking a look at an overview of the state, followed by its geography, climate, and culture.

Before we dive into these aspects of the state, let us first present some key information:

  • State capital: Pierre
  • Largest city: Sioux Falls
  • Total area: 77,116 square miles (ranked 17th)
  • Total population: 853,175 (ranked 46th)
  • Highest point: Harney Peak (7,244 feet)
  • Admitted to the Union: November 2, 1889
  • Time Zone(s): Central UTC -6/-5 (eastern half), Mountain UTC -7/-6 (western half)
  • State Flag
  • Official Website: sd.gov
  • State motto: “Under God the people rule”
  • Nickname(s): The Mount Rushmore State
  • State slogan: “Great Faces. Great Places.”
  • State bird: Ring-necked pheasant
  • Flower: American pasque flower
  • Tree: Black Hills spruce
  • Animal: Coyote
  • Fish: Walleye
  • Insect: Western honey bee
  • Grass: Western wheat grass

map of south dakota in the united states

SD State Overview

South Dakota is one of the 50 U.S. States and is located in the Midwestern region of the United States. It was once the southern portion of the Dakota Territory, but became its own state on November 2, 1889. North Dakota was named a state the same day.

While Pierre is the capital, the largest city is Sioux Falls with a population of 165,000. It is bordered by North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana. The Missouri River bisects the state.

These two halves are known as the “East River” and the “West River” to locals. The eastern portion of the state is home to most of the population. Fertile soil here is used to grow and harvest a variety of crops.

In the west, ranching is the major activity. Here the economy is more dependent on tourism and defense spending. The southwest portion of the state houses the Black Hills, a group of low pine-covered mountains that are sacred to the Sioux people.

The famous monument known as Mount Rushmore is located here as well. This tourist destination is a massive carving into the rock wall portraying the faces of four U.S. Presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

It was sculpted by two Danish Americans, a father and son team by the name of Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum. Each of the sculptured heads are 60 feet tall. The ecology of the state is classified as a typical North American grassland biome.

There have been humans inhabiting the area for several millennia. The Sioux people were dominant by the 19th century. A gold rush in the Black Hills and the construction of railroads brought a rush of settlers.

The influx of miners and settlers caused a lot of tension with the local Native American population. This all culminated with the Wounded Knee Massacare in 1890. Other key events in the 20th century included the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, all of which resulted in increased federal spending during the 1940’s and 1950’s for agriculture and defense.

The recent industrialization and corporate pressure of agricultural standards has resulted in a massively reduced amount of family farming. Historically the state was known for an agricultural economy, and a rural lifestyle, but recent events have forced the economy to diversify and attract new residents.

map of south dakota

Climate Characteristics and Geography

South Dakota is part of the Great Plains region. It can be divided simply into three regions:

  • Eastern
  • Western
  • Black Hills

The Missouri river acts as the boundary between the eastern and western halves of the state. The eastern portion of the state has higher rainfall and lower overall topography. Smaller regions in this area include the Coteau des Prairies, the Dissected Till Plains, and the James River Valley.

The Coteau des Prairies is a plateau that is bordered on the east by the Minnesota River Valley, and on the west by the James River Basin. The aforementioned basin is a low, flat, and highly eroded land that follows the flow of the James River through SD.

The Dissected Till Plains are composed of rolling hills and fertile hills. The Great Plains cover the most of western SD. West of the Missouri River the land becomes more arid and rugged. Here you will find hills, plains, ravines, and buttes.

Buttes are classified as steep, flat-topped hills. In the south, east of the Black Hills region, are the Badlands. This area is composed of erosion from the Black Hills, ancient marine skeletons, and volcanic material.

The Black Hills, located in the southwestern portion of the state, covers 6,000 square miles with peaks that range from 2,000 to 4,000 feet in elevation. It is here that you will find the highest elevation in the state: Harney Peak, which is 7,242 feet.

The climate here is classified as a continental climate. There are four separate and distinct seasons which range from cold and dry winters, to semi-humid summer months. During the summer, the average temperature is close to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Winters are cold, with temperatures averaging at a chilly 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Summer also brings severe thunderstorms with high winds, thunder, and hail. There are an average of 30 tornadoes a year as well.

A Rich and Varied Culture

The culture in South Dakota owes much of its existence to the state’s American Indian, rural, Western, and European roots. There are several annual events each year that celebrate the rich heritage that the state has:

  • Days of ’76 in Deadwood
  • Czech Days in Tabor
  • St. Patrick’s Day in Sioux Falls
  • Cinco De Mayo in Sioux Falls
  • Custer State Park’s Buffalo Roundup (an annual roundup of 1,500 bison by volunteers on horseback)

Laura Ingalls Wilder is one of the state’s most well-known writers. Her books are semi-autobiographical and focus on her experience as a child and young adult on the frontier.

The state is also known for producing several well-known artists. Harvey Dunn, for example, grew up on a homestead near Manchester in the 19th century. Dunn’s most famous works focused on scenes of frontier life.

Terry Redlin, born in Watertown, was also an accomplished artist who portrayed wildlife and rural scenes. Many of his works can be seen at the Redlin Art Center in Watertown.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve gathered a vast sum of knowledge on this state, head on our to our list of South Dakota state facts to round out your repertoire. As always, thanks for reading, and be sure to share your own SD state information in the comments below!

printable map of south dakota



About the Author
Brandon Ramsey

Brandon Ramsey is the head author and editor of The Time Now Blog. Be sure to follow us via social media!


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