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
Updated: 
Friday, November 20, 2020
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Tri-State Museum

Nestled along the Belle Fourche River, the Tri State Museum and Visitor Center holds the fascinating history of the region. Educational exhibits and kiosks tell the stories of early cattle companies cowboys, sheep/wool industries, 95 years of the Black Hills Roundup Rodeo, railroad, military, paleontology, industry, pioneers and two-story 1876 Johnny Spaulding Cabin.

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 fall events like the August Sweet Corn Festival and the October Pumpkinfest. After Thanksgiving, Light Up the Night fireworks are shot off in our backyard. In May 0f 2021, we are hosting the first annual Kite Festival and Duck Races event. PLUS, all the Hometown Thursdays (June and July) summer 2021, will be held on our grounds!

What are all the ways I can enjoy this museum?

Adults and children both enjoy the 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, dig box, microscope, and slides. We 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 an array of Discovery Boxes for kids (9 to 90) to interact with.

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 change 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 on all exhibits and artifacts. Have questions about the area? We are happy to help with area 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?

From young children to seniors! We recently hosted a bunch of preschoolers who had 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 is in her 90's!

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 about helping to keep lawns mowed and cleared of debris in summer and keeping our parking lot and sidewalk snow-free in winter.

A visit to the Tri-State Museum and Visitor Center is a step back in time—while keeping firmly planted in the present. Come enjoy the peace and quiet of our small-town, find friendly hospitality and appreciate the beauty of nature. We’re looking forward to meeting you—here in the Center of the Nation!

Black Hills & Badlands is prioritizing safe travel.

Learn more at BlackHillsBadlands.com/COVID.