Tri-State Area History in the Center of the Nation | Black Hills Travel Blog

Tri-State Area History in the Center of the Nation

  • Tri-State Area History in the Center of the Nation
    Tri-State Area History in the Center of the Nation
Friday, April 14, 2023
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Tri-State Museum

Sitting astride the Belle Fourche River, the Tri-State Museum and Visitor Center tells the fascinating history of the region. Educational exhibits and kiosks tell the stories of early cattle companies, cowboys, sheep/wool industries and the century-long history of the Black Hills Roundup Rodeo. You’ll also learn the history of the railroad, early mercantile, law and medicine and pioneers. Natural history artifacts that span geology, archaeology and paleontology complete the experience of the tri-state area.


What makes this Museum unique?

The Tri-State Museum and Visitor Center is at the Center of the Nation, and we have a spectacular granite rose monument to prove it! Founded in 1955, with a modest "endowment" and a small collection, our museum covers the history and culture of Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota—a span no other museum in the area can claim. Also, on our park-like grounds is the Johnny Spaulding Cabin. It is one of the few two-story 19th century cabins to still be in existence.


How does the museum tie into my Black Hills vacation?

We are a unique blend of a cultural arts entity and a tourist attraction. In addition to being the home of the Center of the Nation Monument, the Johnny Spaulding Cabin and the Tri-State Museum, our spacious grounds are THE event place in Belle Fourche, hosting summer events like Hometown Thursdays in June and July, with vendors, activities, and a band onstage.

August brings the Sweet Corn Festival with a scarecrow contest. In October we host the popular Pumpkinfest with vendors as well as a play, costume contest, “Haunted” Spaulding Cabin,” and Halloween-themed activities. The night after Thanksgiving, we host a Light Up the Night reception and fireworks are shot off in our backyard.



What are all the ways I can enjoy this museum?

Adults and children both enjoy the exhibits and activities - touchscreen quizzes at our mini and temporary exhibits. Children's activity tables are a draw in both the Visitor Center and the Museum. They love our dress-up trunk, archaeological dig box, microscope, and slides. In the summer, we have a gold panning station on our back deck. We also have saddles to mount, mercantile "shopping bags" to examine, vintage paste-up sheets to touch and look through in our Newspaper and Printing Press Exhibit. Not to mention our 18 Discovery Boxes for kids (9 to 90) to interact with on subjects ranging from bugs to wildlife, constellations to music.


How much time should I budget?

Plan to spend at least an hour and a half of exploration—especially during the summer months when the Johnny Spaulding Cabin is open. Adults will want to examine photos and artifacts and read storyboards; children will want time for all the hands-on activities. Our mini exhibits change four times a year and our temporary exhibit changes three times a year. There is always something new and interesting.


Is there staff that can assist me during my visit?

Our friendly staff is well versed about our exhibits and artifacts. Have questions about the area? We are happy to help with the area’s history and have a wealth of written tourist information on hand. We’ll even check online or call a hotel, restaurant, visitor center or attraction to help answer questions.

Make sure to explore our newly refreshed gift store—with merchandise like smart toys and games, posters, puzzles, science kits, kids' books and novelties that appeal to families. You’ll also find carry bags, scarves, postcards, T-shirts, decor items and memorabilia that appeals to adults.

Visitors are welcome to bring a lunch and settle on one of our picnic tables that are scattered beneath huge Cottonwood trees skirting the Belle Fourche River, or just relax on our back deck and watch the world go by.


Is this museum for all ages?

Schoolkids come on tours – some as young as preschool. They all have a fine time. Our Economic Development Director has brought in groups of young professionals who want to know more about the area's business history. Families are here in the summer; empty nesters and tour buses come through in summer and fall. There's something for everyone—folks enjoy just chatting with our "greeters," too—including one who turns 100 in 2023!


What is your accessibility?

The museum interior is on one floor. All exhibits as well as our store allow for wheelchair access—and we also have a wheelchair for guest use. The monument on our back lawns can be accessed by stairway, and a curving walkway for those who do not want to navigate stairs. The city of Belle Fourche is excellent in helping to keep lawns mowed and cleared of debris in summer and keeping our parking lot and sidewalk snow-free in winter.

Regardless of who you are, what age you are, how you get here, or when you visit - we’re sure you’ll find many memorable moments to take with you when you leave. Plan a visit soon!