lover of nature could here find his soul's delight; the invalid regain his
health; the old, be rejuvenated; the weary find sweet repose and
invigoration; and all who could come and spend the heated season here would
find it the pleasantest summer home in America.
More than one hundred twenty five years
have passed since A.B. Donaldson explored the Black Hills and
penned these words as a newspaper correspondent
with General George Armstrong Custer's historic Black Hills Expedition.
Though much has changed in the Black Hills, his words seem timeless.
Visitors today may come to the Black Hills for a variety of reasons, yet it is
her raw natural beauty that touches their spirit. Indeed, even prior
to the white mans incursions into the Black Hills, the Lakota, who were the most
recent of the native tribes to inhabit the Black Hills, perceived them to be a
"holy wilderness" possessing mystical and powerful regenerative qualities.
mountains get the name "Black Hills" from the Lakota words Paha Sapa, which mean
"hills that are black". They were also described by pioneers as "an Island
in a Sea of Grass". Both seem fitting when one approaches from the
distance and sees the dark, obscure peaks rising from the golden plains.
The closer one comes the more the veil of darkness is lifted and the true colors
of these mountains are expressed. From the vast pine and spruce covered
peaks, to the lush green park like meadows and deep blue alpine lakes, from the
streams edged in silver ribbon, to the sparkling granite spires in shades of
gray to salmon pink. 1.2 million acres of public land, stretching
125 miles north to south, by 65 miles east to west, beckoning to be explored.
the heart of the Black Hills is the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, established by
Congress in 1920 for the "protection of game animals and birds and to be
recognized as a breeding place therefor". The Preserve covers about 35,000
acres, 25,000 of which are managed by the Forest Service. Most of the rest of
Norbeck is part of Custer State Park. Norbeck is home to a variety of wildlife,
including elk, deer, bighorn sheep and mountain goats. It also contains rugged
granite formations, small lakes, scenic drives, and hiking trails.
Black Elk Wilderness is in the center of the Norbeck
Wildlife Preserve. The 9824-acre Wilderness was named for Black Elk, an Ogalala
Lakota holy man. Congress established the Wilderness on December 22, 1980.
Peak, at 7242 above sea level, is the highest point in the United States east of
the Rockies. From a historic lookout tower on the summit, one has a panoramic
view of parts of South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana, as well as the
granite formations and cliffs of the Black Elk Wilderness.