Finding Black Hills Ghost Towns - Spokane, SD | Black Hills Travel Blog

Finding Black Hills Ghost Towns - Spokane, SD

Tuesday, August 21, 2018
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While history of westerners in the Black Hills of South Dakota may be but a baby step in time, the history of the region runs deep. In fact, it is the area’s rich ancient geology and allure of precious metals that brought settlers clamoring over 120 years ago. Many of the places and establishments they called home still linger, and it's not hard in the Black Hills to find ghost towns with a few walls and relics left for people to explore and re-imagine the region’s history.

Spokane, S.D., is one such ghost town. Founded in 1890 to extract precious gold, the mine proved richer in silver, copper, zinc, mica and graphite. You can find the remains of Spokane 16 miles from Custer, just north of Custer State Park’s northern border, and a short walk from Forest Service Rd 330.

Photo by: Chad Coppess Photo by: Chad Coppess

The town hit its stride in 1927 with its biggest year ever totaling $144,742 in profits which helped fund the school building whose bones can still be found for the time being. Even from 2010 to just this past year, this structure has really started to fall. Its many holes and aged wood now provide for a lot of fun for photographers. By 1940, the mine and town were all but abandoned.

Probably the town’s most intact structure is the manager’s house, which sits a short walk up a hill from the school house and other buildings. This would have been one of the last homes to be abandoned, possibly not until as recent as the 1970s. It doesn’t appear to have been upgraded much from its original incarnation, so much of its rustic charm remains.

The mine manager's house in Spokane, SD The mine manager's house in Spokane, SD in 2010 photo by: Mike Gussiaas

My very favorite thing about Spokane is something that could have inspired the classic Marshall Tucker Band song “Fire on the Mountain”. The song shares the tragic tale of an east-coaster leaving the Carolinas in pursuit of the quick riches of a Western gold rush. The man packs up his family and heads west only to meet his ultimate demise as he’s “shot down in cold blood by a gun that carried fame, all for a useless and no good worthless claim.” On a hill in Spokane – between the manager’s home and the town fossils – there’s a little grave telling of the prospector buried there, who found an eerily similar fate near the turn of the century.

The view of the Black Hills from near the manager's house. Photo by: Mike Gussiaas The view of the Black Hills from near the manager's house. Photo by: Mike Gussiaas

Directions: Take either Iron Mountain Road or Playhouse Road to Forest Service Rd 330. Turn north on FS 330, but keep an eye out on your right for a gated Forest Service path/trail almost immediately after the turn. Park at the gate turn-out and take an easy one-mile walk on FS 330. GPS coordinates are N43.840657, W-103.376041

A word of caution-- these are crumbling structures built around an abandoned mine. Watch your step and don’t climb in or on any existing structure. That aside, it’s a beautiful hike and can provide several good hours of exploring for those wanting to take a step back in time.

Photo by: Chad Coppess Photo by: Chad Coppess

Photo by: Mike Gussiaas Photo by: Mike Gussiaas

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