Rapid City, South Dakota: Dinosaur Park

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I started Day 6 with one of the most obvious tourist attractions in Rapid City.  In the middle of town, on top of a hill that divides the city in two, stand seven life-sized concrete dinosaurs.  They’re the main attractions at Rapid City’s Dinosaur Park, and have been, for many decades.

Location

Dinosaur Park is easy to see from just about anywhere in Rapid City, but it’s a bit trickier to find, unless you know which roads to look for (I tried to just “head towards it”, but eventually had to pull over and consult a map).  From Interstate 90, take I-190 south.  The freeway ends, and the road turns into West Boulevard.  Drive two blocks past Route 79, then turn right on Quincy Street.  Quincy turns into Skyline Drive, which will take you to Dinosaur Park.

My Visit

Jurassic Park, this isn’t.  Give them some credit–these dinosaurs are, well, dinosaurs.  They’ve been around since 1936, when they were built as a WPA project.  And, since 1936 is just slightly before Steven Spielberg showed us exactly what dinosaurs really looked like, the designers went with the facts, as they knew them.  The result are dinos that look just a bit cartoonish.

The biggest of these concrete creatures is the Apatosaurus (also known as Brontosaurus), at the top of the hill.

You’ll have to forgive him for being a bit inaccurate, historically.  The Apatosaurus didn’t actually have such a ridiculously long tail.  But on the plus side, kids can climb on it!

Not only does the Apatosaurus overlook the rest of the creatures in Dinosaur Park, but the entire city as well. This is the view looking west…

… and east, towards the core of Rapid City’s downtown.

 Just below the big vegetarian is a famous meat-eater, Tyrannosaurus Rex.  When first sculpted, he had hands (it’s just as well they’re gone now–they featured 3 claws, which is inaccurate) and teeth (most of which are worn down or broken off, and barely visible now).  As an added insult, visitors have taken to tossing gravel into his mouth.  Such a fierce and terrifying creature would probably command a little more respect, if he wasn’t smiling.

There’s also a concrete triceratops…

… an Anatotitan (he still has his hands)…

and a Stegosaurus, who is cursed with bright red lipstick.

Across the street, next to the parking lot, there are two more concrete sculptures: a Protoceratops and a Dimetrodon, which in reality was not a dinosaur, but rather, a pelycosaur.  These last two sculptures are smaller, and were added sometime after the original five were created.

After I admired them all, I stopped in at the gift shop and snack bar, for a look at every imaginable dinosaur-related souvenir.

The Dinosaur Park sculptures were designed by Emmet Sullivan.  He’s the same sculptor responsible for Wall Drug’s Apatosaurus on Interstate 90 in Wall, South Dakota.

After visiting the dinosaurs, I continued out Skyline Drive.  The road runs along the crest of the hills until it connects with US Hwy. 16, on the southern outskirts of Rapid City.  From there, I headed south, towards Mount Rushmore, and the Black Hills.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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