Coming To Akaska? See South Dakota After AIM’s Walleye Tournament
Aug 9th, 2010 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Aug 9th, 2010 at 12:00 AM
Coming to South Dakota next week for the AIM tournament that’s the centerpiece of the third annual South Dakota Walleye Classic in Akaska Aug. 11-15. If you’re not planning on touring more of this unique state’s attractions afterward, you’ll literally be missing the boat.
Rapid City Area:
Mount Rushmore. Crazy Horse. The Black Hills. Not too shabby destinations to enjoy, and they’re all only a few hours from Akaska. Mount Rushmore is easily one of the state’s most recognized landmarks. It was first conceived in 1923 to carve the faces of western heroes, then presidents. Artist Gutzon Borglum visited in 1924, saw the proposed location, and declared, “America will march along that skyline.” Instead of western heroes, Borglum suggested Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln, and the rest is history for the ages. The monument was dedicated 10 years later.
Around the corner, the Crazy Horse memorial was begin in 1948 by another artist with another nearly unpronounceable name, Korczak Ziolowski, to memorialize the famed Lakota Sioux leader and honor North American Indians. Its beginning was dedicated by the artist and chief Henry Standing Bear. Ziolowski knew the world’s largest mountain sculpture would not be completed in his lifetime, and his family carries on creating the edifice through a nonprofit. The 60th anniversary of the project was celebrated in 2008, and when completed it will also feature the Indian Museum of North America at its base.
The Black Hills carry deep meaning to American Indians, and both Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial are embedded in them. Traditional hunting grounds considered sacred by the Lakota, they were left alone by early trappers and mountain men. But after reports of gold in the 1870s, the European-American rush to the area was on. While most claims played out quickly, by 1876 10,000 whites lived in the hills. Indians however, refused to cede ownership, and who “owns” the Black Hills is still an open question, as many Lakota still claim their sacred heritage here.
Custer State Park is also in the Hills, and sports not only great camping and scenic drives through its 71,000 acres. Some 1,300 bison roam the park, and frequently stop traffic on the 18-mile-long Wildlife Loop Road. Other drives include the spectacular Needles Highway. Four lakes feature trout fishing, too. Other Rapid City attractions include Reptile Gardens and Bear Country USA, Deadwood where Wild Bill Hickok met his fate, and its Boot Hill.
Wall and Walleye, Anyone?
If you’re coming to Oahe for walleye, why not drive an hour or two west for “wall,” right? Wall Drug, and Wall, South Dakota, that is. Tourists in the 1930s were welcomed to this corner of western South Dakota with billboards that said “Free Ice Water at Wall Drug.” The campaign was the brainchild of pharmacist Ted Husted, which immediately drew in thirsty travelers seeking respite from the road. Of course, nearly all drug stores offered free ice water, but it took Husted and a few hundred billboards to lure in tourists for a few hours. The result is Wall Drug, one of the largest tourist attractions in the northern U.S., and the Husted family continues the tradition of entertaining thirsty and hungry tourists with everything from food to corny attractions. Wall Drug sits right next to one of the state’s other major attractions, Badlands National Park, a spectacular 244,000-acre wind and water-eroded moonscape that offers drive-through routes.
Mitchell’s Corn Palace, in Mitchell, is covered with corn, native grain and grasses each spring to celebrate the state’s abundant agricultural background. As AIM pro Chad Schilling likes to add, folks also like coming to South Dakota, because they can get lost if they wish, or find themselves, if they wish. Schilling owns Oahe Wings & Walleye, a full-service fishing and hunting lodge 10 miles from Lake Oahe, in Akaska, where the third annual South Dakota Walleye Classic takes place. Schilling’s boat is one of three sporting the South Dakota, Great Faces, Great Places branding in the AIM Pro Walleye Series. The AIM tournament takes to the water here Aug. 12-14 “There’s the best of both worlds here. You have farms on the east side of the Missouri River and city life too with lots of shopping. The east side of the river is the prairie pothole region with lots of upland game hunting. “But once you get to the river, the land turns really rolling prairie from there west. The river’s kind of a demarcation line where people say they’re entering the wet, and it’s right there. A whole lot of ranches, and not many farms from that point west,” he says.
The land on the river’s east side is known for pheasant and waterfowl. West of the river, grouse and big game are plentiful. But whether you come for the fish and game, for fun at the Classic, or to explore South Dakota’s other destinations, there will be something for everyone to enjoy on your visit.
For Black Hills information, go to www.visitrapidcity.com. For Mount Rushmore information, go to www.nps.gov/moru. For Crazy Horse, go to www.crazyhorsememorial.org. For Custer State Park, go to www.custerstatepark.info. For Wall Drug, go to www.walldrug.com. For the Badlands, go to www.nps.gov/badl. For the South Dakota Walleye Classic and AIM walleye tournament, go to www.sdwalleyeclassic.com, and www.aimfishing.com. For more on things to see and do in South Dakota, go to www.travelsd.com.