Tourism contributes approximately $1.76 billion annually to the South Dakota economy. Visitors come from around the world to see the state's attractions, particularly those in the Black Hills region, such as historic Deadwood, Mount Rushmore, and nearby state and national parks.
South Dakota is dubbed the Mount Rushmore State, which speaks to the giant sculpture's place in state history and identity. Carved by sculptor Gutzon Borglum beginning in 1927, the granite faces are one of the most instantly recognizable symbols of America. Mount Rushmore draws more than three million visitors annually.
Visitors also flock to Crazy Horse Monument, an even larger mountain carving of Lakota warrior Crazy Horse, which remains a work in progress more than 60 years after the late Korczak Ziolkowski began work on it.
Surveys indicate that most visitors come to South Dakota for the scenery, from the rugged Badlands to other-worldly Devil's Tower in eastern Wyoming. Visiting national and state parks, including Custer State Park, is the most popular tourist activity.
Many visitors also travel to legendary Deadwood to soak up Old West history and play a hand at the poker tables that returned to the gulch when gambling was legalized in 1989. A portion of the billions of dollars wagered there helps fund historic preservation in Deadwood and elsewhere in the state.
Recently, Oglala Sioux Tribe officials have begun working to attract more tourists to historic sites on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
In early August, hordes of motorcyclists roar into the Hills for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The week-long event drew more than 450,000 attendees in 2006, significant, considering the state has a population of 799,000.
South Dakota tourists were retired travelers taking long trips. On average visitors spent about $230 per day, an increase from the previous year.
Analysts say one in 11 South Dakotans owes his or her job to tourism. Without visitor spending, each household in the state would pay an additional $828 in taxes each year. Visitors can find more information at the Black Hills Visitor Information Center.