Friendship Tower gets a Facelift | Black Hills Travel Blog

Friendship Tower gets a Facelift

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Mount Roosevelt Friendship Tower 623

The Friendship Tower atop Mount Roosevelt was built in 1919 by Deadwood lawman Seth Bullock, in honor of his friend - the late President Teddy Roosevelt.

The 32-foot stone tower has, for the better part of a century, withstood the elements of our Black Hills weather extremes fairly well. But, preservation officials thought, there was room for improvements -  to make it safer and more enjoyable for visitors. Thanks to some federal funding, the Forest Service and the Deadwood Historic Preservation office are working to do just that.

Contractors are currently hard at work on a stabilization project to help protect the structural integrity of the tower and keep it standing tall for years to come. They're re-mortaring parts of the base and the tower itself, replacing damaged stones, constructing a roof over the top and building a staircase up to the entrance.

My wife and I hiked up to the tower last weekend to check out the changes-in-progress and, I must admit - when I first saw the new stairs, I was a little bummed.

You see - for as long as I can remember, getting into the tower was a bit of a challenge. You had to scale the six-foot base and then deal with the tower door that was closed off by an iron gate. Sort of.

Years ago, the iron gate was the Forest Service's idea of how tojoeintower200 best protect the tower, by keeping people from going inside and on up to the top. That didn't last long. Determined folks from the area - who knew how great the view from the top was - chipped out some rocks below the grate, making it possible to shimmy underneath.

Not that I had ever actually done it, mind you. I have *no* idea who this guy inside the tower is.

Mount Roosevelt Friendship Tower construction plans 220Click the image to the left to view a full-size version.

And, in the grand scheme of things, the changes will make it easier for folks to enjoy the tower. The small roof that will be constructed up over the top of the whole thing will help shield the inside of the historic monument from moisture. Thankfully, the impressive four-state view from the top will stay the same.

As for that pesky iron gate - from what I understand, something similar will be re-installed. But, only for the purpose of keeping critters and things out during the winter season when that road is impassable anyway. The real goal of the project is to make the Friendship Tower safer and more accessible for all visitors. And, in my opinion, the more folks that can safely enjoy all that the region has to offer, the better.

The tower on Mt. Roosevelt makes a perfect short day-hike and is located just a couple of miles from downtown Deadwood. From Deadwood - head north on Hwy 85 toward Spearfish. At the top of the first hill, turn left - like you're headed to the Lodge at Deadwood. Take an immediate right onto Mt. Roosevelt Road and follow it about a mile and a half to the parking area and trailhead.

A half-mile, crushed rock trail leads you to the 5,690-foot summit of Mt. Roosevelt and the Friendship Tower. It's one of my favorite places in the northern Black Hills and well worth paying a visit to.

About the Author

Joe is a resident of Spearfish, S.D. He grew up in the tall-corn state of Iowa, where he developed an early interest in all things outdoors. After high school he moved to Vermillion, S.D., where he earned his bachelor’s degree in public relations and advertising.

During his college years, two things caught his attention: the beauty of western South Dakota’s Black Hills and a girl from those Black Hills. After graduating from college, Joe traveled across the country as a recruiter for the University of South Dakota. He saw the sights from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas and everywhere in between, but it was the Black Hills (and the girl) that kept drawing him back.

He and wife moved back to the Black Hills in 2008. He's an avid hiker, mountain biker and road cyclist whose future plans include trying to fit a pair of kayaks into the spare bedroom.