Deadwood, South Dakota – A Historic Trip to the 1800’s

Deadwood SignHands down, the cutest little town I saw while in South Dakota was Deadwood City. It is a quaint little town in the Black Hills not very far from Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Sturgis. What is amazing about the city is that the whole city is a National Historic Landmark!  Pretty cool. Once we realized how close it is to Rapid City, we definitely added it to our to-do list.  I have to say, I am very glad we did.

Deadwood 2The city of Deadwood was established in 1876, like many cities in the area, during the Black Hills gold rush. However, Deadwood mostly became known for its wild and almost lawless reputation, during which time murder was common, and punishment for murders was not always fair and impartial. The town attained further notoriety for the murder of gunman James Butler Hickok – known as Wild Bill Hickok. Hickok’s murderer, Jack McCall, was prosecuted twice, despite the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against double jeopardy, because of a ruling that Deadwood was an illegal town in Indian Territory and thus lacked the jurisdiction to prosecute or acquit McCall. This decision moved McCall’s trial to a Dakota Territory court (“Indian Court”), where he was found guilty of murder and hanged.

Deadwood 4Deadwood gradually evolved from a wild frontier town to a prosperous commercial center, due, in part, to the construction of the railroad. It became the place people traveled in the Black Hills to conduct their business. However, during the roaring twenties, gaming became illegal but continued to operate behind closed doors until the repeal of the Prohibition Act in 1935. Then in November of 1989 gaming was reinstated which enabled Deadwood to preserve its historic buildings and dramatically increase tourism. Though the lure of gaming is not the only draw to Deadwood; people are also fascinated by its unique, colorful history.

Deadwood 3Today it is a place to go and walk in the footsteps of legends at one of the town’s many historic attractions. I think the most fun though was just walking around and checking out this little town. It is so exciting. We even went into a store that does Old Time Photos. It seemed like a fun idea to get an old-timey photo, but there were a lot of people waiting so we kept walking. We were so glad we did, as we were able to catch a street performance with people dressed in period costumes. It was so remarkable and funny. I could have stood there and listened for hours! We did take some pictures after their performance!

Deadwood 8The other thing we really enjoyed was sitting and having a drink in Saloon #10. This is the saloon where Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back and killed by Jack McCall on August 2, 1876. As legend has it, he was playing poker and holding 2 black aces and 2 black eights, now known as the dead man’s hand. Today the saloon is packed full of historic Deadwood memorabilia, and you can even see the chair where Wild Bill was shot. They have a great bar and we actually set for a while, had a drink, and imagined what it was like during the late 1800s. My sister-in-law is related to William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody so I asked the bartender if she knew if he had been in the saloon with Hickok. She said she wasn’t 100% positive, but knew they were acquainted and assumed they had been in there together at one point in time. Just thought it was pretty cool.

Deadwood 6Another thing that I thought was pretty cool was that they had recently filmed part of an episode of “The Bachelor” from the previous season in Deadwood. I thought it was pretty exciting and I admit, I actually saw the episode, lol. The townspeople, however, weren’t quite as pleased. Apparently the show really disrupted the town business by shutting down roads, stores, hotels, restaurants, etc. Most of the merchants seemed happy to see them leave I guess they figured they should have stayed in Hollywood, lol

Deadwood 5We had a great time in Deadwood while in the area in June of 2015, and really enjoyed the historic feel around the city. I found this cute little store and thought of my late great aunt Ardell, AKA Miss Kitty. Thought it was fun and had to go in a check it out. Deadwood is definitely a great place to visit and learn about the Old West.

Deadwood 7If you would like to learn even more about Deadwood, and its history, according to their website, they have historic tours. The tours are guided tours by local historian Jeannine Guern. The tour is offered 6 days a week (Monday through Saturday) from 10 a.m. to roughly 5 p.m., and by appointment on Sundays. Visitors go on an informative and picturesque journey that’s full of local history – starting with Centennial Valley, through Deadwood’s Historic Main Street, up to Lead, onto Cheyenne Crossing, and on through Spearfish Canyon. Private tours and destinations are considered upon inquiry. Service dogs are welcome. Ask about a military discount. Payment may be made by cash or card. Contact Jeannine Guern at (605) 580-1788 or at for pricing and scheduling info. Sounds like fun, but we had our dogs with us, so we will have to do it another time. If anyone has done this, please comment and let me know what you enjoyed about it. Thanks in advance.

Deadwood Visitor Information 

Parking and Transportation

Deadwood’s Main Street is right in the middle of the gulch so parking is limited. However, the city does have parking ramps and lots all within walking distance to the fun.

Free Parking

Sherman Street Lot
Snowmobile & Trailer Parking Lot (Located on Hwy 85 near trail #7)

Metered Parking

Broadway Parking Ramp
History & Information Center
Lower Main Street Lot
Miller Street Lot
Whitewood Creek Lot


Airport Express Shuttle: (605) 399-9999
Black Hills Grab-A-Cab: (605) 269-1515
Deadwood Cab Company: (605) 717-2000
Dakota Taxi: (605) 920-2020
Deadwood Cab Company: (605) 717-2000
Dakota Shuttle: (605) 920-9999
Giddy-Up Shuttle: (605) 430-6366

Deadwood Trolley (Deadwood city limits only) Click to track trolley and see pickup locations.


Rapid City Regional Airport
4550 Terminal Rd
Rapid City, SD
(605) 393-9924


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