Lead, South Dakota

Lead isn’t quite as exciting as it’s pro-gambling neighbor, Deadwood.  There aren’t as many tourist-targeted attractions here, with the exception of the Black Hills Mining Museum (pictured below, on the right side of the street).

From Deadwood, take US 85 (Sherman Street) south.  You will pass the intersection of US 385, then head uphill into Lead.

Lead’s narrow two-lane Main Street squeezes through the business district.  Before I knew it, I was on the other side of town.

 It’s hard to believe that the sleepy little town of Lead could end up on the cutting edge of science.  Lead’s old Homestake Mine (the oldest mine in the western hemisphere) has been selected as the location of DUSEL, the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory.  Once DUSEL is operational, scientists will use its underground chambers to unlock the secrets of the universe.  According to the DUSEL Homestake website, the old mine is “well-suited for experiments that require extremely low cosmogenic backgrounds: in particular, the search for neutrino-less double beta decay and relic dark matter.”  I think that makes it perfectly clear.

There’s a nice old Coca-Cola ghost sign on the side of the Senior Citizen’s Center.

If you turn off Main Street, headed south, the roads dip down into a valley, then climb another hill, taking you through the historic Slavonian neighborhood.

Lead is pronounced “Leed” (as in the opposite of “follow”).

Follow US 85 thorough Lead.  At the west end of town, it joins US Alt-14, and heads south to the mouth of Spearfish Canyon.

Presidents Park Sculpture Garden

As you drive around South Dakota, you’ll probably see signs like this one — featuring a slightly 3-dimensional sculpture of Abraham Lincoln.  They stand alone, without any explanation of what they’re advertising.  It’s a mystery that’s solved, as you drive down US 85, about halfway between Lead and the entrance to Spearfish Canyon.

Presidents Park Sculpture Garden features much-larger-than-life busts of every U.S. President.  Abe Lincoln’s sculpture looks out over the highway at the entrance to the park…

… while the rest of the collection hides behind a fence.  Once again, I was too cheap to pay the $8 admission, but that shouldn’t discourage you from supporting a great, quirky roadside attraction.

Presidents Park features sculptures by David Adickes. Its website says the park has been listed by USA Today as one of the top ten places in the US to see, and it graced the cover of the final edition of Life Magazine.

Once you’ve paid your respects to the presidents, continue on to Spearfish Canyon.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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