Deadwood City

Deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota during the gold rush of 1876, a group of miners discovered a gulch filled with dead trees and a creek full of gold. And so Deadwood was born.

Deadwood was shortly after established as a town that played by its own rules and became home to many of the most well-known gamblers, gunslingers, and outlaws of the Old West, including Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Quite unlike most old west mining towns still around today, Deadwood is a thriving city full of shops, restaurants, casinos, and tons of historic sites.

We arrived in Deadwood fairly late in the evening (why does the timing on road trips never work out the way you plan?) and missed all the fun historical reenactments that occur daily during the summer months. Shoot-outs in the street, trials, music performances… we were pretty bummed to miss it all. We had also hoped to arrive in time to pan for gold at the Broken Boot Gold Mine, but alas, we missed that too.

Instead, we cruised the streets and took photos of the historic buildings.

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The biggest attraction of Deadwood is Saloon 10, the site where gambler and gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok was shot in 1876 during a poker game. He was holding a hand of aces and eights- forever after known as the “Dead Man’s Hand.”

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Still true to its original roots, Deadwood remains a town full of casinos. I wanted to pop inside one and lose a few bucks, but I was out-voted within my group of friends and so we continued along our journey. For those who are able to spend a little time gambling (which in my mind, feels like recreating a bit of history, given the town’s claim to fame and all), here is a list of the casinos in Deadwood.

The one thing we did find time to do in Deadwood however, was eat! We ended up at a cool diner called Mustang Sally’s.

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Even if you are not a big soda drinker, when visiting any old west town, you HAVE to drink a sarsaparilla. Similar in taste to rootbeer, it is like the “official” old-timey drink. In the 1953 Doris Day movie “Calamity Jane” (which takes place in Deadwood and features characters inspired by the city’s infamous residents), Calamity orders sarsaparilla every time she goes into the saloon.

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Just because I love that movie (and highly recommend watching it even if you’re not planning a trip to Deadwood), here is one of my favorite songs from the movie:

If you have a little extra time to spend in the city during the day, head over to Mount Moriah Cemetery, where all of Deadwood’s infamous residents are buried.

When you arrive, your first stop is a small museum. The museum has lots of information about life in the 1870s. They even had information about the most common causes of death back then. Crazy. This was a reproduction of Wild Bill’s original tombstone. It’s hard to believe they used to be made of wood.

The museum has a little gift shop where we bought some sarsasparillas. We said a toast for the deceased before heading into the cemetery.

The cemetery was built in 1878 and is the final resting place of western legends, murderers, madams, and the people who helped build Deadwood. It is a fascinating look back at our past and gives visitors a glimpse of life back in the Victorian Era.

The actual burial sites of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane…

ADMISSION:

$2.00, which supports cemetery maintenance and upkeep.

HOURS:

Cemetery:

  • Memorial Day – Mid October: open Mon-Sun, 8am-6pm
  • Winter hours: open with limited maintenance

Visitor Center:

  • Memorial Day – Mid October: open Mon-Sun, 8am-6pm

Deadwood really is a cool town with a wild and colorful history, filled with many fun things to do for visitors of all ages. So grab a sarsaparilla, channel your inner Doris Day, and go explore one of the last great gold mining towns of the old west!

For lodging information, click here.

Author: Natalie Bates

LA-based freelance writer | Blogger | Craft beer drinker | Rock 'n roll girlfriend | Adventurer | Lover of tattoos, red lipstick, and popcorn | World traveler | Compassionate human | Photography enthusiast | Eco warrior | Celtic babe ❤️

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