When travelers think of South Dakota and national parks, many think first of Mount Rushmore and the badlands of South Dakota. But southwestern region of South Dakota is also home to one of the nation's newest national parks, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. This park was officially transferred from the Air Force to the National Park Service in September 2002.
It is first park site devoted entirely to the story of the Cold War. Baby Boomers may remember the era—the duck and cover exercises in school, fallout shelters, the Cuban missile crisis, and the looming threat of nuclear annihilation. That era of nuclear brinksmanship is now remembered through the new historic site, so future generations will be able to understand this significant period in our nation’s history.
This site was once part of an enormous nuclear missile field that at its height included 150 Minuteman II missiles and 15 launch control centers that covered over 13,500 square miles of southwestern South Dakota. Today the launch control center and the missile silo are the only remaining components of this once vast network. The land-based missile sites formed a network with manned bombers and armed submarines that had the power to launch unimaginable destructive power. While a symbol of amazing military might, based on the law that formed the site, the Park Service will focus on a message of hope and "America's strategic commitment to preserve world peace."
—Felicia Carr, NPCA
If You Go > >
While there is not yet an official visitors' center, the park service has installed a "contact station" located at exit-131 (just south of the highway, next to the Conoco station) and park rangers are leading tours. Given the close quarters of the missile site’s underground command center, tour groups are limited to six people.
Tours fill up quickly, and can be filled up months in advance, so call 605-433-5552 to reserve your spot and to get tour times.
As you plan your visit, consider adding nearby Badlands National Park and Buffalo Gap National Grassland to your itinerary as well.