You'll Discover Astonishing Things at the Tri-State Museum and Visitor Center | Black Hills Travel Blog

You'll Discover Astonishing Things at the Tri-State Museum and Visitor Center

  • You'll Discover Astonishing Things at the Tri-State Museum and Visitor Center
    You'll Discover Astonishing Things at the Tri-State Museum and Visitor Center
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
By : 
Kristi Thielen

What has a historical sphere, a granite rose, a passel of saddles, colorful flags, a box of constellations, fascinating books and sparkly jewelry – plus an X-Ray machine?  

The Tri-State Museum and Visitor Center in Belle Fourche!

Gardens, wildflowers and spacious lawns with picnic spots ring the complex adorned with a wood exterior. It is fronted with plenty of parking steps away from things to do, see, learn about – and interact with.   

A Historical Sphere

The Visitor Center offers a wealth of traveler materials and a touchscreen kiosk with even more visitor information. But it has so much more: A Penny Pincher machine, revolving mini-exhibits, a western activity table for kids, an antique telephone – for antique conversations, perhaps – and the beautiful “Belle of the Ball” termesphere, created especially for Belle Fourche by the internationally known artist, Dick Termes.

Images from the city’s history cover the revolving sphere, including a prominent rendering of the town founder, Seth Bullock. It’s unique and lovely to look at! Enjoy it and the other fun things to do in the Visitor Center. If you need any further information, just ask one of our helpful volunteers or staffers.

Did we mention the mini exhibit in the Visitor Center? Each one includes info, photos, a touchscreen quiz, a free take-home packet and books to read about a specific topic. Spring and summer exhibits for 2020 will include Clocks and Time; Bzzzzzz: Bees; Firefighting; and Dinosaurs of the Black Hills.  

A Box of Constellations

The vintage bank vault in the Visitor Center contains no money – but it does contain a collection of things that young people find interesting: puzzles, games, artifacts like a bird’s nest and a tiny bat skeleton, plus 16 themed “Discovery Boxes,” filled with things to read, do and make. There are Discovery Boxes on sunflowers, sheep, music, pioneer toys, rocks and minerals, Black Hills Wildlife and more. And that includes a box of activities and information about constellations. There are sky charts and information worksheets and flashcards for older kids and constellation “sewing cards” for younger ones.

A Granite Rose

Step out on the deck off the Visitor Center and view our spectacular compass rose monument, placed in honor of the fact that we are at the Center of the Nation! Twenty-one feet across and made of South Dakota granite, the monument is a beautiful tribute to our unique geography and community. Walk down the steps to the monument itself and pose at its very center for a photo op that’s like no other.

Colorful Flags

While you’re down at the monument, why not stroll the “Avenues” there to look at the 50 colorful state flags that proudly fly at the monument site. If you’d like to turn your stroll into a fun, family game, ask for our “Find the Flag” activity sheet. Can you locate the flag from your state? 

And if you want to linger down on the lawns a while longer, consider playing the city’s 9-hole Disc Golf Course. It begins right next to the flags!

A Cozy Cabin

Pardon us while we brag, but there are only a few two-story 19th-century cabins left in the U.S., and we’ve got one of them. It’s the Johnny Spaulding Cabin, built in 1876 by hunter-guide-scout-pioneer Johnny Spaulding, from hand-hewn logs. Built for his sister’s family, it originally sat on the Redwater River east of Belle Fourche but was moved to its present location in 2006. It is fully furnished with period furniture and “appliances” of its day. Tour upstairs and down and ask our cabin host for some fun stories about the place – you’ll hear some colorful stuff!

Fascinating Books and Sparkly Jewelry

Back inside, there’s a great gift shop between the Visitor Center and the Tri-State Museum. You’ll find not just books and jewelry, but also bags, scarves, stuffed animals, toys, seasonal décor, candles, postcards, candy and western memorabilia. And our prices are intentionally kept reasonable because we want you to feel comfortable making your purchases and recommending us to your friends! 

A Passel of Saddles

We’re a western history museum, so we’ve got a passel of saddles for sure; on a buck rail fence and next to a wall of info about historic ranches, cattle brands, and ranching equipment. But we’ve got more than that. Stroll around to learn more about rodeo and the Black Hills Roundup – and that includes celebrated cowgirls, too.

We’ve also have exhibits with artifacts telling the story of law, medicine, music, pioneer home, saloons and bad guys, military and good guys, and sheep ranching. Our western historical artifacts from way back include archaeological and dinosaur artifacts from this area.

Our temporary exhibit for late spring and early summer will be Test Your Mettle: The History of Metals, Metalworking and Metallurgy. It includes photos, storyboards, a touchscreen quiz, an educational table and vintage metal artifacts galore. Plus, items related to welding and blacksmithing.

Mid-summer, we’ll put up a new temporary exhibit, Rodeo! about the history of the sport, with information and artifacts far beyond what is on the floor. Speaking of rodeo – if you’re in town this summer for the Black Hills Roundup – June 30 to July 4, 2020 – you can buy your rodeo tickets and carnival tickets right here at the complex!

But What About That X-Ray Machine?

Our museum includes an array of memorable odds and ends from Belle Fourche businesses of days gone by. That includes this funky artifact from the old Hodge Bootery: An X-Ray Shoe Fitting Machine. Really. Back in the 40s and 50s, getting an X-Ray of your feet to ensure proper footwear was the thing to do. And kids from the community would stop in after school for the fun of seeing an X-Ray of their feet! When people learned more about the dangers of doing this, the machine was taken off the Hodge Bootery floor and went to the backroom. But later, it came to the museum and we now have it on exhibit. No, it isn’t functioning anymore (thank goodness!) but it sure is fun to examine.

Oh, the stuff you’ll see here. So how soon are you coming to Belle? After all, admission to the complex is free. March and April, we’re open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In May, we expand to Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and between Memorial and Labor Day, we’re open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.

Our programming includes monthly First Saturday Brunches, Family Fun Days plus museum theatre and summer classes. The fun goes on in the fall, with Pumpkinfest at Halloween and Light Up the Night at Thanksgiving. Learn more about all this with a visit to our Facebook page or our website at

But, really, when are you comin’ to Belle? We’d love to see you here at the Tri-State Museum and Visitor Center at 415 Fifth Avenue!

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