The Road To Nowhere

Since US-83’s route across northern South Dakota doesn’t offer much stimulation for the senses, if you’ve got the time to spare, detour west along the Missouri River, leaving North Dakota via the Lewis and Clark Highway, Hwy-1806. This scenic route brings you across the middle of Standing Rock Indian Reservation, which falls mainly in South Dakota but stretches about 30 mi (48 km) over the border.

On Hwy-1806, at tiny Kenel, a historical marker points out the site of fur-trading Fort Manuel, where Lewis and Clark’s guide Sacagawea may have died of fever in 1812, at the age of 25. South of Kenel, the road runs straight south, away from the winding Missouri River and toward imposing 2,200-foot (670-meter) Rattlesnake Butte.

After 26 mi (42 km) or so, you’ll cross on sweeping bridges into Mobridge (pop. 3,540). The town’s name stems from a hasty telegraph message transmitted in 1906 by an operator who needed a quick and clear reference to the area. He chose, at random, “Mo,” for the Missouri River, and “bridge,” referring to the one then under construction by the Milwaukee Railroad.

Once a village of the Arikara people, the town is heavily dependent on the anglers who come to pluck the lunkers, walleyes, and even 20-pound northern pike from Lake Oahe. The area’s earlier history and Native American culture are celebrated on the walls inside the Scherr-Howe Event Center (212 N. Main St., Mon.-Fri., free), where bold murals depict Sioux history and culture. These murals were painted as part of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration by Yanktonai Sioux artist Oscar Howe (1915-1983).

The most interesting food option is Rick’s Café (117 N. Main St., 605/845-5300), in downtown Mobridge, famed for its award-winning chili and tacos. The Wrangler Inn (820 W. Grand Crossing, 605/845-3641, $91 and up), a half mile (0.8 km) west on US-12, is the best overnight stop on the stretch, with a sports bar, dining room, and a heated pool.

Travel Map of the Road to Nowhere through South Dakota

Map of the Road to Nowhere through South Dakota.
Map of the Road to Nowhere through South Dakota.

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