We took a side trip to historic Deadwood, South Dakota during our family vacation to the Black Hills. Deadwood is famous for its legends as much as its actual history as a 19th century Old West mining town. Today, visitors flock to Deadwood to connect with history and try their luck in one of Deadwood’s gambling halls just as “Wild Bill” Hickock and other famous gamblers once did.
Our first, and only, stop in Deadwood was the Mount Moriah cemetery, popularly known as Boot Hill. This is the only cemetery I’ve ever been to that charges admission, but the fee is small and it buys you a map with histories of the notable people buried here.
The most famous people buried at Mount Moriah are “Wild Bill” Hickock and Calamity Jane. The real Calamity Jane probably did not bear much resemblance to the movie character played by Doris Day, and her relationship with “Wild Bill” may have been more imagined than real. Nevertheless, her dying wish that she be buried next to him was granted.
My husband and I are history buffs and we like a good cemetery. It was interesting to learn about other colorful characters that I had not heard of and I enjoyed reading the headstones of “average” Deadwood residents and learning about the Chinese and Jewish sections of the cemetery.
The other worthwhile reason to drive up to Mount Moriah and wander its hilly terrain is its panoramic view of Deadwood nestled at the base of the scenic Black Hills. It’s beautiful.
Our children ran out of patience after about an hour in the cemetery, which wasn’t bad, considering they weren’t thrilled to be there from the start. It started to rain by the time we were back in our van and before long, it was pouring.
We made a pass through downtown Deadwood to see if there was a reason to stop, but seeing mainly casinos, bars and shops, we decided get the heck out of… wait, that’s a different place.
Downtown Deadwood is quaintly attractive and walkable, but it’s among the least family-friendly of the many destinations in the Black Hills. There are a few family attractions such as go-karts and mini golf, but with over 100 gaming halls and bars, Deadwood is a destination for adults.
Deadwood is located about 40 miles northwest of Rapid City. You can drive most of that distance on Interstate 90, but on the way there, we decided to take the scenic route along Highway 385. That road rewarded us with beautiful lakes and forests and hills, different enough from the Black Hills beauty south of Rapid City to make the it worth the effort.