Okay, so it might not look like much, but it’s probably the coolest thing I came across in Fort Meade Recreation Area. This is what’s left of the stagecoach trail that linked Deadwood with Sidney, Nebraska during the 1870s and 1880s. A small town of only about 6,000 people today, Sidney was pretty happenin’ back in the 19th century.
Founded shortly after the Civil War in one of those railroad-military alliances that were pretty common on the Frontier, Sidney was the principal city of western Nebraska for several decades. But according to the city’s website, the town didn’t really take off until the Black Hills gold rush. Even though it’s almost 300 miles away, Sidney had the closest railroad depot to Deadwood’s gold mines, making it a pretty popular transfer point for people moving in – and bringing gold out.
Until the railroad started to lay new track in the late 1880s, the only route connecting Deadwood’s gold fields and the rest of the world were roads like these. There isn’t much of it left, but the road is still distinct. And with Bear Butte off in the distance, it makes for a pretty nice picture…
To access the Fort Meade Recreation Area, exit Interstate 90 just south of Sturgis (exit 34). Follow Old Stone Road east for a little over a mile. A marker on the west side of the road will show you how to find the old stagecoach road. It’s a hike of about 40 yards from the marker to the old ruts in this picture.
Aside from the aesthetics and history, discovering a scene like this in person also makes you appreciate the modern automobile. Let’s just say that I have no interest in traveling 300 miles on this road at all, let alone in a vehicle with, at best, a leather suspension system. Yikes.