A brief travel guide to South Dakota’s most notorious town.
“No rules, no regrets” is the slogan that still drives the vibe in Deadwood, South Dakota. Although having transitioned to tourism long ago, this old west mining town still maintains a glimmer of its notorious history, which was made even more of a legacy by HBO’s Deadwood series and coming movie. This is a place to explore the past, drink in saloons, and try your luck in numerous casinos … just as characters such as Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Seth Bullock, and Al Swearingen once did.
Now a National Historic Landmark District that’s home to 1,300 people, Deadwood started out as an illegal mining camp on Lakota territory which rose to prominence after gold was found in 1874. Miners came pouring in, as did the amenities that miners of that day frolicked in — no rules, no regrets was right.
Where to go and what to do in Deadwood:
Mount Moriah Cemetery
Mount Moria is where many of Deadwood’s most notorious outlaws were laid to rest. The remains of Wild Bill Hickok, the famed old west gunslinger, are here. Hickok first came to Deadwood looking for gold in and was subsequently shot in the head during a poker game in 1876. Laying next to him is Calamity Jane Cannary, whose final wishes were, as legend has it, to be buried next to Wild Bill. While Wild Bill’s final wishes were to not be buried anywhere near her. Back then, as today, women tend to get their way. The graves of lawman Seth Bullock, swindler Al Swerenger, and General George Crook are also there.
Nuttall and Mann’s Saloon No. 10
Nuttall and Mann’s Saloon No. 10 is where Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall while playing poker. While the original Nuttall and Mann’s was burned down in 1879 along with most of downtown Deadwood, another saloon with the same name opened across the street in the 1960s and makes claims of historic relevance.
80 Gaming Halls
Gambling was reintroduced to Deadwood in 1989 and a modern gold rush of gaming enthusiasts ensued. There are now 25 places to game in the town, which is the biggest draw for tourists who come for Blackjack, poker, or just to play the slots — and many gaming halls offer casino rewards free spins. It’s not all vice though, as some proceeds from gaming go toward the restoration of historic sites.
The Lucky Nugget Gambling Hall is one of Deadwood’s top casinos, and, unlike Saloon No. 10, is on the actual location of the saloon where Wild Bill was shot. This is a full scale casino, with multiple restaurants, three bars, and live entertainment.
Walk through history
Walking through downtown Deadwood is a stroll through old west history. The streets are lined with historic buildings and monuments, including a statue of Wild Bill. Also check out the new visitor information center.
Head into the hills
Deadwood is surrounded by the Black Hills, whose unique history and stunning scenery makes for days of good adventuring. Go for a walk on the George S. Mikelson trail from the town of Deadwood up into the hills, where you can hike, bike, and camp. Nearby in the Black Hills are tourist sites like Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, and the Crazy Horse Memorial.
If you’re looking for a new destination for your holidays this year and you’re into history and gaming, then Deadwood could be the place for you. Just keep the town’s slogan in mind and have a good time.