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Bear Butte

 Bear Butte



Location: Meade Country, South Dakota




Description of the Bear Butte

Fees and permits
Park entrance license required: $5/day/vehicle or $23 for an annual pass. Participants in religious activities exempt.

Camping & Fees: $6/site. 16 sites (all non-electrical). Horse Camp: $8/site. 4 sites (all non-electrical). No showers. Water. Picnic shelter.


Bear Butte is a natural geologic formation in Meade Country, South Dakota near a town of Sturgis. Bear Butte was designated as a State Park in 1961. Before the arrival of white settlers Bear Butte was revered as a religious site. Bear Butte was formed in the Eocene Epoch 56 to 34 million years ago as an active volcano. Magma rose from the depths of the Earth and solidified once it reached cooler surface. In the subsequent years the volcano eroded away due to natural erosion, but sold rock was left in place in distinct cone like shape. Today it reaches a height of 1254 feet or 382 meters above the surrounding plain, but it keeps eroding and its height decreases.


First human settlements in the region date back to 10,000 BC. It is unclear whether ancient people worshipped, but Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux regarded it as a spiritual place. Prominent leaders of Plains Indians came here on their pilgrimage. It included chief Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Red Cloud and many others. In 1857 a council of many Indian tribes and nations gathered here to discuss encroachment of white settlers on the plains. Cheyenne called it Noaha- vose (giving hill) or Nahkohe- vose (bear hill), while Lakota called it Matho Paha (bear mountain). The name stuck with the arrival of the European settlers. Originally US government signed a treaty in 1868 that prohibited white people from entering sacred lands of the natives, but it was broken almost as soon as it became a law. Thus most notably George Armstrong Custer camped near Bear Butte during his expedition to the Black Hills where he confirmed deposits of gold.


After removal of the native population the area was settled by farmers. Local resident Ezra Bovee who owned lands in the proximity submitted requests to give this geologic formation an official recognition. Finally his family succeeded when in Bear Butte was turned into a Bear Butte State Park in 1961 and added to the list of National Historic Landmarks in 1965.




Camping & Fees: $6/site. 16 sites (all non-electrical). Horse Camp: $8/site. 4 sites (all non-electrical). No showers. Water. Picnic shelter.




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