The territory that would become South Dakota was added to the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The first permanent American settlement was established at Fort Pierre by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804. White settlement of the territory in the 1800sled to clashes with the Sioux, as some of the lands had been granted to the tribe by an earlier treaty. Nevertheless, the territory was incorporated into the union on November 2, 1889, along with North Dakota. Due to a controversy over which state would be admitted to the union first, President Benjamin Harrison shuffled the bills and signed one at random, with the order going unrecorded, though North Dakota is traditionally listed first. Today, a major part of South Dakota’s economy is fueled by tourism–visitors flock to the state to see Mt. Rushmore, which features 60-foot-tall sculptures of the faces of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln. Famous South Dakotans include newscaster Tom Brokaw, senator, and vice president Hubert Humphrey and model-actress Cheryl Ladd.
Railroads have played an important role in South Dakota transportation since the mid-19th century. Some 4,420 miles (7,110 km) of railroad track were built in South Dakota during the late 19th century and early 20th century, but only 1,839 miles (2,960 km) are active. BNSF Railway is the largest railroad in South Dakota; Rapid City, Pierre, and Eastern Railroad (formerly the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern) is the state’s other major carrier. Other state carriers include Dakota Southern Railway, Dakota and Iowa Railroad, Ellis and Eastern Railroad, Sunflour Railroad, Canadian Pacific Railway, and the Sisseton Milbank Railroad. Rail transportation in the state is mostly freight, but there are two passenger heritage railroads: the Black Hills Central and the Prairie Village, Herman, and Milwaukee. However, South Dakota is one of the two contiguous states that lack the Amtrak service. (South Dakota is the only contiguous state that never had Amtrak—Wyoming used to be served by the San Francisco Zephyr and the Pioneer.)
South Dakota has 83,609 miles (134,556 km) of highways, roads, and streets, along with 679 miles (1,093 km) of interstate highways. Two major interstates pass through South Dakota: Interstate 90, which runs east and west through the southern half of the state; and Interstate 29, running north and south in the eastern portion of the state. The I-29 corridor features generally higher rates of population and economic growth than areas in eastern South Dakota further from the interstate.
Also in the state are the shorter Interstates 190, a spur into central Rapid City, and 229, a loop around southern and eastern Sioux Falls. Several major U.S. highways pass through the state. U.S. routes 12, 14, 16, 18, and 212 travel east and west, while U.S. routes 81, 83, 85, and 281 run north and south. South Dakota and Montana are the only states sharing a land border which is not traversed by a paved road.
The Missouri River was a Native American river road. They settled along the river. Plains tribes traveled its waters in carved log canoes and buffalo skin bull boats. The river connected different tribes and made trade between them possible.1 Trading posts and military forts located along Missouri for easy access and added security. Early white settlements also located along Missouri.
One well-known journey along Missouri took place in 1804-1806 with the Corps of Discovery led by Lewis and Clark. The explorers were searching for a water route across the country. They traveled to the headwaters of Missouri, crossed the Rocky Mountains, and then traveled on the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, they mapped the terrain and recorded the weather, plants, animals, soil, and minerals they came across. The Corps was also expected to
establish friendly relations with all the Indian tribes. The expedition proved there was no water route across the country. The information they gathered along the way spurred the migration west.
Many different types of watercraft traveled on the Missouri River. Canoes, mackinaws, bull boats, keelboats, and steamboats traveled the muddy waters. The canoe was used for local trips and for sending mail and freight down the river. Mackinaw boats carried heavy freight downstream. Tribes along Missouri built small one-person round bull boats. Sometimes a fleet of over one hundred could be seen on the river. Bull boats were often used to transport buffalo meat from a recent hunt downstream.
Traders adopted bull boat construction methods and made much larger ones capable of carrying up to 6,000 pounds of furs. A light sapling frame would be covered with a skin of stitched-together bull buffalo hides caulked with fat. Trader bull boats were oval rather than round. They were awkward to handle, leaked, and became waterlogged, but were still useful because they only sat 10 inches low in the water.
Traders also used keelboats to haul trade items to the upper Missouri. Steamboats began traveling the Missouri River in 1819. By 1859, there was more steamboat traffic in Missouri than the Mississippi. The Missouri River route between St. Louis and Montana
could only be traveled during the summer months because ice blocked upper Missouri for the winter. The first steamboats served the fur trade. The Yellowstone was the first steamboat to reach
Fort Pierre Chouteau in 1831. Later, boats carried military troops and supplies. Missouri was a difficult river to navigate. Strong currents, shallows, submerged trees, and other hazards sank many boats. Over 400 steamboats sank on Missouri during the steamboat era. As more and more railroads built into the territory, steamboats became less important as a means of transportation. When the steamboat fleet was destroyed in the spring of 1881 by high water and ice while docked at Yankton, the industry never recovered.
South Dakota’s largest commercial airports in terms of passenger traffic are the Sioux Falls Regional Airport and Rapid City Regional Airport. Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, and Allegiant Airlines, as well as commuter airlines using the brand affiliation with major airlines, serve the two largest airports. Several other cities in the state also have commercial air service: Aberdeen Regional Airport, Pierre Regional Airport, and Watertown Regional Airport, some of which are subsidized by the Essential Air Service program.