South Dakota Geography and Famous Natives

Geography of South Dakota

The fertile Great Plains of North America cover almost 75% of South Dakota. These plains are generally flat in the central states, however, in both North and South Dakota, much of it is hilly and somewhat rugged, especially in the west, where steep, flat-topped hills (hills) dominate the landscape. The Black Hills of western South Dakota, at 2,000-4,000 feet high scale, stretch across its border into Wyoming. The state’s highest point, Harney Peak, is located there. Immediately east of the Black Hills, the Badlands, a long series of oddly shaped and brightly colored hills, domes and rolling hills cover the land.

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In the far northeast, the land facing the Red River is flat, while in the south, the small, hilly area (Prairie Hills) is the main landform. The James River valley (or basin) is mostly flat country with scattered low hills; from north to south, this is the state’s most productive farmland.

The most important river in North Dakota is the Missouri; it rises in southern Montana in the Rocky Mountains, first flowing north, then generally southeast through the heart of the United States, ending at the Mississippi River, just north of St. Louis, Missouri. It is the longest river in the United States (2,500 miles) (4,023 km).

Other famous rivers include the Cheyenne, James, Moreau, Red and White. The most significant lake is Lake Ouch, one of the five largest lakes created on the Missouri River by the US government to eliminate the annual flooding of the river lowlands.

South Dakota Famous Natives

People listed are almost always native to the state. We do (on occasion) include those who have either lived within the state for most of their adult lives or have made significant contributions to the state in their personal endeavors.


  • Clinton P. Anderson politician, former US Secretary of Agriculture
  • Animated Anderson baseball manager
  • Actress Katherine Bach
  • Pro rodeo rider Jesse Bale
  • Bob Barker Television Host (WA-born)
  • Gertrud Bonnin (Zitkala-Sa) author
  • Stephen F. Briggs co-founder Briggs & Stratton Corporation.
  • Television announcer Tom Brokaw


  • Baseball umpire Amanda Clement
  • Sean Colvin musician
  • Crazy Horse ogala head
  • Tom Daschl politician
  • Harvey Dunn artist
  • Myron Floren accordionist
  • Fighter pilot Joe Fossa, governor of South Dakota
  • Astronaut Michael Fossum
  • Charles D. “Sam” Jamar astronaut
  • Dick Green baseball player


  • Rebecca “Becky” Hammon basketball player
  • Joseph Hansen author
  • Television host Mary Hart
  • Oscar Howe artist
  • Hubert H. Humphrey US Vice President
  • Roy Braxton Justus cartoonist


  • Actress Cheryl Ladd
  • Basketball coach for Ward “Pig” Lambert
  • Written by Rose Wilder Lane
  • Ernest Orlando Lawrence physicist
  • Brock Edward Lesnar wrestler


  • Native American activist Russell Means
  • George McGovern politician
  • Mike Miller basketball player
  • Billy Mills Olympic gold medalist
  • White Opera Singer Needle Mura
  • Karl Erl Mandt politician


  • Journalist Al Neuhart, founder of USA Today
  • Pat O’Brien Television Host
  • James “Scotty” Philip rancher, “the man who saved the buffalo” (born in Scotland)
  • Actress Dorothy Provine
  • Politician Gladys Pyle


  • Rain in the face of the head Hunkpapa sioux
  • Terry Redlin artist
  • Benjamin Reifel politician
  • Economist Theodor W. Schulz
  • Sitting bull sioux head
  • Opera singer Jes Thomas
  • Rodeo Champion Casey Tibbs


  • Norma Van Brocklin footballer
  • Actress Mamie Van Doren
  • Adam Vinatieri football player
  • Musician Abby Whiteside

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