Geographic Center of the United States

The Truth

" Bell Fourche is literally the Center of the Nation. Hawaii's addition to the union made the geographic center of the United States a point about twenty-eight miles north of Belle Fourche. The 'Stone Jonnies' markers make a visit to this site a unique experience."

-1996-1997 South Dakota Vacation Guide

When I recently visited South Dakota to find the center of the nation, I encountered a truly 'unique experience'. First I stopped at the Visitors center in downtown Bell Fourche and discovered the following sign:

sign with rock

Click on the Picture to read the sign.

I then decided to head up 20 miles north to visit the geographic center of the United States and to see what the center of the nation looked like. However, I was wondering why the rocks were next to the sign.

Finding the Location

The road after leaving the Information Center in Belle Fourche South Dakota was wide open. I traveled north US 85 using a map and looked for a sign that would let me know where Center of the Nation was. If I passed 168, according to my map, then I knew I had gone to far.

[Sample map]

Looking for a 'Center of the Nation' sign seemed easy since the farther I drove the more open the land became. The land was unsettled and cattle was rooming all over the place.

Driving to the Location

When I was getting close to where the center of the Nation should be, ( I set the odometer to zero, when I left the information center and saw it approching 20) I noticed a white building on the right hand side of the road. I was thinking to myself that must be the 'Center of America'. However, as I got closer, I noticed a sign:

Road Closed

I then continued to drive on thinking that it was private farm road because there were cows all over the place. I did notice that my car odometer had hit close to 20 miles at this point, but didn't think anything of it. I drove 5 miles down the road when I saw the intersection of 168.

Realizing that, according to my map, I had gone too far I turned around and started heading back to where I saw that 'Road Closed' sign.

Investigating the Road

There wasn't any traffic on 85, so when I drove back to the sign I notice that the road wasn't blocked off, just that the road closed sign was in the middle of the road. I decided to drive my car slowly up the road.

The road ended as a loop and appeared that this was done so people could pull over and park their cars. The road itself was in good condition. To my left there was a staircase going up a hill and in front of me was the white building that I saw from the road.

I parked my car and walked over to the white building. Thinking that it was going to say, 'Welcome to the Center of the Nation' instead it turns out that it was an old restroom, with both the Men's and Women's doors replaced by a wiregate. I decided to walk up the hill since I could see some type of sign.

When I got to the top of the hill, I was surprised to find that a bunch of rocks all fenced in. I read the sign and got a little better understanding and for a while thought that this whole place was for the Sheepherder's Monuments and had nothing to do with the 'Geographical Center of America.'