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South Dakota is a state in the midwest of the USA and has about 815,000 inhabitants, ranking it number 46 of the US states. Although much of the state is regarded as the midwest and Great Plaines, but the west of the country much more resembles the west of the country with mountains, rocky areas and the famous Badlands as one of its highlights.
South Dakota is situated in the north-central United States, and is considered a part of the Midwest by the U.S. Census Bureau; it is also part of the Great Plains region. The culture, economy, and geography of western South Dakota have more in common with the West than the Midwest. South Dakota has a total land area of 199,740 km2, making the state the 17th largest in the Union. It borders Minnesota and Iowa to the east, North Dakota to the north, Nebraska to the south, and Wyoming and Montana to the west.
Harney Peak, with an elevation of 2,207 metres, is the state's highest point, while the shoreline of Big Stone Lake is the lowest, with an elevation of 294 metres. The geographical center of the U.S. is 27 kilometres west of Castle Rock in Butte County. The North American continental pole of inaccessibility is located between Allen and Kyle, 1,648 kilometres from the nearest coastline.
The Missouri River is the largest and longest river in the state. Other major South Dakota rivers include the Cheyenne, James, Big Sioux, and White Rivers. Eastern South Dakota has many natural lakes, mostly created by periods of glaciation. Additionally, dams on the Missouri River create four large reservoirs: Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe, Lake Francis Case, and Lewis and Clark Lake.
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Badlands National Park is a national park in southwestern South Dakota. This park is marked by rugged terrain and formations that resemble a science fiction landscape of another world. These rock formations take on the shapes of domes, twisted canyons and slanted walls, often striped in different colors. The formations contrast sharply with the rolling hills and prairies in which they stand. In addition to the rock formations, the park contains the largest, protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. The most endangered land mammal in North America, the black footed ferret, was re-introduced to the 64,000-acres Badlands Wilderness Area. The park also contains the world's richest fossil beds from the Oligocene epoch, dating back around 20-35 million years. While the badlands terrain may appear to be barren, there is a great variety of wildlife and plant life here. The wildlife includes nearly two hundred species of birds, (mule and white tail) deer, prairie dogs, pronghorn, big horn sheep, and bison.
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Mount Rushmore is the iconic monument to US political history that is carved into the side of a solid granite mountain. It consists of the faces of four famous US presidents. They are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. In fact the statue is a compromise as the original design also included the upper bodies of the presidents. The design is by Gutzon Borglum, who also was the supervisor on the project, but it was his son Lincoln Borglum, who finished the project in 1941, which is also the year in which his father died. There is a visitor center, named after Lincoln Borglum near the mountain, where more information about the construction of the monument can be found. In the evening Mount Rushmore is illuminated for two hours after sunset.
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This monument depicts Crazy Horse, a Native American warrior of the Oglala Lakota tribe. It shows him riding a horse with left arm extended and index finger pointing into the distance towards "his lands". It is carved on Thunderhead Mountain on land sacred to some Native Americans. The statue was started in 1948 and has yet to be completed. SO far the most notable part of the statue is the face which was completed in 1998. The most emphasis since the completion of the face lie on the carving of the horse's head. The most rudementary removal of rocks is done by placing explosive in the mountain. The entire project is privately funded from donations. The builders refused funding from the US government. A glimpse of how the project might end can be seen here.
South Dakota has a continental climate with four distinct seasons, ranging from cold, dry winters to hot and semi-humid summers. During the summers, the average high temperature throughout the state is often close to 32 °C, although it cools to near 15 °C at night. It is not unusual for South Dakota to have severe hot, dry spells in the summer with the temperature climbing above 38 °C several times every year. Winters are cold with January high temperatures averaging below freezing and low temperatures averaging below - 12 °C in most of the state. The highest recorded temperature is 49 °C at Usta on July 15, 2006 and the lowest recorded temperature is -50 °C at McIntosh on February 17, 1936.
Average annual precipitation in South Dakota ranges from semi-arid conditions in the northwestern part of the state (381 mm) to semi-humid around the southeast portion of the state (around 635 mm), although a small area centered on Lead in the Black Hills has the highest precipitation at nearly 762 mm a year.
South Dakota summers bring frequent, sometimes severe, thunderstorms with high winds, thunder, and hail. The eastern part of the state is often considered part of Tornado Alley, and South Dakota experiences an average of 30 tornadoes each year. Severe weather in the form of blizzards and ice storms occur often during winter.
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Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.
For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.
South Dakota has a number of National Scenic Byways which offer a great way to explore the state crossing beautiful landscapes. Mostly, there are lots of national parks, state parks or monuments along the way and it's generally a better alternative than the faster but boring Interstate Highways.
There are dozens of hotel and motel chains, ranging from budget to top end. Allthough they are not the most charming accommodations, they usually have a very decent midrange service with good rooms and are generally good value. At least you know what to expect and in some cases they are either the only or the best option in the area. Some of them include:
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