South Dakota, known for its beautiful landscapes and rich Native American heritage, also hosts a variety of abandoned places that tell tales of a bygone era. Urban explorers seeking the thrill of discovery will find that these deserted locations offer fascinating insights into the state’s past. The state’s history of gold rushes, Native American culture, and rural life can be traced through these forgotten landmarks, each offering a unique story and atmosphere. The abandoned places in South Dakota bring forth the contrasts between the state’s historical significance and the relentless march of time, making it an ideal location for urban exploration.
Note: Many of these locations are in an extremely delicate state. Specifics on locations, such as coordinates or maps, are not given. This is done so purposefully as a barrier to entry to those who may mean harm to these spots. I want to ensure that these abandoned places in South Dakota are known about, but stay as vandalism and destruction free as possible. Remember: Take only photos, leave only footprints.
Breakdown: The Top 10 and More
If you have a specific location from the list below that you would like to immediately get more information about, click the links in the list to snap straight to that abandoned places in South Dakota location.
- Belle Joli Winery Sparkling House (Sturgis)
- Lily Ghost Town (Lily)
- Minuteman Missile National Historic Site (Philip)
- Ortley’s Grain Elevator (Ortley)
- Ardmore Ghost Town (Ardmore)
- Scenic Ghost Town (Scenic)
- Fort Igloo Bunkers (Black Hills Ordnance Depot) (Provo)
- Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians (Canton)
- Capa Ghost Town (Capa)
- Forest City Bridge (Forest City)
Broaden Your Horizons Beyond South Dakota
Are you interested in venturing outside the state of South Dakota? Maybe you live close to the state line, or maybe you’re just looking for adventures outside your home state. Whatever the case may be, here are some guides to bordering states that may be helpful in effective urban exploration:
Don’t Forget About Trespassing Laws
It is important when considering abandoned places in South Dakota to know the basics of South Dakota trespassing laws. Luckily, we have developed a massive guide to trespassing laws in all 50 states. For laws that specifically relate to South Dakota, please click here.
Without any further ado, let’s hop into the list of abandoned places!
The Best Abandoned Places in South Dakota
Belle Joli Winery Sparkling House (Sturgis)
Tucked away in the heart of Sturgis, South Dakota, the Belle Joli Winery Sparkling House is an abandoned testament to the city’s rich viticultural past. Established in the early 21st century as an extension of the Belle Joli Winery, the Sparkling House was once a bustling hub for wine enthusiasts, known for its high-quality sparkling wines crafted using traditional French techniques.
In its heyday, the Belle Joli Sparkling House was a symbol of elegance and refinement. The building, designed with a European influence, featured a tasting room with high ceilings and large windows that allowed natural light to spill in and dance on the glass surfaces.
Visitors would sit at the sleek bar or the outdoor patio, savoring the delicately effervescent sparkling wines while gazing out at the picturesque vineyards. The air was filled with lively conversation, the clinking of wine glasses, and the sound of corks popping.
However, with the passing of time, the Sparkling House found it challenging to sustain its operations. After many years of serving the community, the establishment was ultimately abandoned.
How Things Look Today
Today, the Sparkling House stands silent and deserted, a stark contrast to its vibrant past. The tasting room, once filled with laughter and chatter, now echoes with the quiet stillness of abandonment. The outdoor patio, previously a popular spot for wine tastings under the sun, sits empty, facing the vineyards that have begun to reclaim the land.
Despite the air of abandonment, there’s an undeniable beauty to the Sparkling House. The building itself, with its elegant architecture, tells a story of a time when it was a beloved local establishment. The vineyards, though somewhat overgrown, still carry the aura of the rich soil that once produced grapes for the acclaimed sparkling wines.
The future of the Belle Joli Winery Sparkling House remains uncertain. While there have been discussions about potential revitalization projects, no concrete plans have been made as of now. For the time being, the Sparkling House remains a poignant reminder of Sturgis’ wine-making history and the ephemeral nature of success.
Lily Ghost Town (Lily)
Located in the northeastern corner of South Dakota, Lily is an evocative ghost town that harks back to the frontier spirit of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Once a thriving agricultural community, Lily’s population steadily dwindled over the years, leading to its present status as a deserted reminder of a time gone by.
In its prime, Lily was a bustling little town filled with the promise of opportunity. Settlers were drawn by the fertile farmland and the arrival of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad in 1883. The town boasted a post office, a school, and several businesses including a general store, a blacksmith shop, and a hotel. Over time, it also served as a social hub where locals gathered for community events, town meetings, and shared camaraderie.
However, as the 20th century wore on, changes in agricultural practices and transportation began to impact small rural communities like Lily. As farms grew larger and required fewer hands, and as better roads and faster cars made larger towns more accessible, towns like Lily saw a decline in their population. The death knell for Lily came in the latter half of the 20th century when the rail line was abandoned, depriving the town of its lifeline.
How Things Look Today
Today, Lily stands largely empty and silent, a poignant testament to the region’s past. The structures that remain, such as the old schoolhouse, the post office, and several residences, paint a vivid picture of a community that once was. These buildings, now weathered and worn, stand as solitary sentinels against the vast South Dakota sky.
Visiting Lily today is like stepping back in time. Walking its abandoned streets, you can almost hear the echoes of children playing, the blacksmith’s hammer hitting the anvil, and the friendly banter of townsfolk going about their day. It is an eerie yet fascinating place that serves as a tangible link to a bygone era.
Despite its ghost town status, Lily is not entirely forgotten. Every now and then, former residents and curious explorers pay a visit, bringing a brief flicker of life to this quiet corner of South Dakota. But when they leave, the silence returns, wrapping Lily once more in its hauntingly beautiful cloak of solitude.
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site (Philip)
The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, situated near the town of Philip in South Dakota, provides an intriguing and sobering look into the Cold War era of United States history. While not technically abandoned, as it is actively managed by the National Park Service, the site certainly invokes a strong sense of history and the passage of time.
From 1963 until the early 1990s, this site was an integral part of the United States’ nuclear deterrent strategy. As one of the multiple Minuteman Missile launch sites dotted across the Great Plains, it was always on high alert, ready to launch its deadly payload at a moment’s notice.
The National Historic Site includes three main components: the Launch Control Facility (Delta-01), the Launch Control Center, and the missile silo (Delta-09). Delta-01 was where missileers, or launch officers, lived and worked during their shifts. It was essentially a self-contained world, with sleeping quarters, a kitchen, and a lounge area.
Just below the surface, reachable by elevator, was the Launch Control Center, the heart of the operation. Here, behind a massive blast door, the missileers monitored their squadron of missiles and stood ready to launch them if the order came. Delta-09 is a few miles away, and it’s where one of the actual Minuteman II missiles is housed in its silo.
How Things Look Today
Today, the missile at Delta-09 has been decommissioned and its nuclear warhead removed, but the rest of the site remains much as it was during the height of the Cold War. The Launch Control Facility still contains furnishings and equipment from the period, and the underground Launch Control Center is a time capsule of 1960s technology and design.
The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site serves as a stark reminder of the Cold War era and the constant threat of nuclear conflict that hung over the world during that time. Guided tours offer visitors an opportunity to experience firsthand what life would have been like for the missileers who worked in these facilities.
Despite the isolation and decommissioned status of the site, it continues to be a place of interest and learning. It provides a tangible connection to a pivotal period in our history, a time when the world was on the brink of nuclear war and a handful of people in places like this held the power to change the course of history in their hands.
Ortley’s Grain Elevator (Ortley)
The ghostly remnants of Ortley’s Grain Elevator, located in the small town of Ortley, South Dakota, serve as a poignant relic of the town’s agricultural past. Grain elevators, with their towering structures and impressive storage capacities, were a crucial part of the agricultural supply chain, particularly in the grain-rich Midwest.
Constructed in the early 20th century, Ortley’s Grain Elevator was a hub of activity during the harvest season. Farmers from around the region would bring their harvested grain to the elevator, where it would be weighed, graded, and then stored in one of the structure’s numerous bins. From there, the grain would be loaded onto trains or trucks for transportation to mills or markets across the country.
However, as the farming industry modernized and centralized, small-town grain elevators like the one in Ortley fell into disuse. Despite its once vital role in the community, Ortley’s Grain Elevator was eventually abandoned.
How Things Look Today
Today, the grain elevator stands as a monument to the town’s past, its weathered wooden façade and rusty machinery bearing the marks of time and neglect. The structure itself is an imposing sight, its silhouette still dominating the town’s skyline. The massive grain bins, once filled with the fruits of the season’s harvest, now stand empty and silent.
Approaching the elevator, one can almost hear the echoes of farmers’ voices, the rumble of grain being poured into the bins, and the clamor of machinery. However, the site is a hazardous one due to the building’s state of decay, so visitors are advised to observe it from a safe distance.
The abandoned Ortley’s Grain Elevator is a powerful symbol of a bygone era. It tells a story of the region’s agricultural history and the changes that have occurred over the years. It serves as a stark reminder of the shifting dynamics of the American agricultural landscape.
Ardmore Ghost Town (Ardmore)
Located in the southwestern corner of South Dakota, not far from the Nebraska border, lies the ghost town of Ardmore. Once a thriving agricultural hub, Ardmore is now largely abandoned, its former homes, businesses, and community structures standing as silent, often crumbling, witnesses to its past.
Ardmore was established in the late 19th century with the coming of the railroad. It quickly grew into a prosperous agricultural community, buoyed by the surrounding fertile lands and the town’s strategic location on the railroad line. At its peak, Ardmore was home to several hundred residents and featured a wide range of amenities, including a school, a post office, a hotel, and various businesses.
However, as the 20th century progressed, Ardmore began a slow decline. The railroad, which had been the town’s lifeblood, stopped running. The agricultural economy faced numerous challenges, and residents began to move away in search of better opportunities. By the early 21st century, Ardmore was essentially a ghost town, with only a handful of residents remaining.
How Things Look Today
Today, visitors to Ardmore can still see many of the town’s original structures. Some are surprisingly intact, their exteriors weathered but their interiors relatively preserved. Others are in varying states of decay, with sagging roofs, broken windows, and overgrown yards. Each one tells a part of Ardmore’s story.
Walking the town’s empty streets, visitors can get a sense of what life was like in Ardmore during its heyday. The town’s school, its businesses, and its homes offer a glimpse into a past era of South Dakota’s rural history. Yet they also serve as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by rural communities across America.
Despite its abandonment, Ardmore retains a certain eerie beauty. Its weathered buildings, standing against the vast South Dakota sky, convey a sense of resilience and quiet dignity. They tell a story of a community that thrived, struggled, and ultimately faded away, yet whose spirit remains embedded in its remaining structures and its landscape.
Scenic Ghost Town (Scenic)
Nestled in the stark beauty of South Dakota’s Badlands, Scenic Ghost Town stands as a haunting relic of a bygone era. Once a flourishing railway town and ranching center in the early 20th century, Scenic now largely stands deserted, with its surviving buildings serving as a solemn testament to the town’s more prosperous past.
Established with the expansion of the railroad, Scenic quickly grew into a lively town. With its access to vital rail lines and its proximity to prime ranching lands, Scenic became a bustling hub for the local ranching community. It boasted a number of commercial establishments, a school, a church, and a dance hall, among other amenities, providing a social and economic center for its residents and the surrounding rural population.
However, Scenic’s prosperity proved to be short-lived. As ranching became less profitable and the railroad ceased operations, the town began to dwindle. By the late 20th century, most of Scenic’s residents had moved away, leaving the town largely deserted. What remained was a collection of empty, dilapidated buildings, silent but for the whispering South Dakota wind.
How Things Look Today
Visitors to Scenic today can explore the town’s surviving structures, which include the former dance hall, the jail, and various commercial buildings. The dance hall, in particular, offers a poignant reminder of Scenic’s vibrant past, its now-empty interior once filled with music, laughter, and the lively gatherings of a thriving community.
Despite its abandonment, Scenic possesses a quiet, eerie beauty. Its empty buildings, standing amid the stark, sweeping landscapes of the Badlands, provide a captivating contrast. The town’s desolation is accentuated by the rugged beauty of its surroundings, creating a unique atmosphere that draws urban explorers, photographers, and history enthusiasts.
The Scenic Ghost Town, though silent, tells a compelling story. It serves as a stark reminder of the transience of prosperity, the harsh realities of rural life, and the relentless march of time. Yet, amid the silence and desolation, there’s a sense of resilience, a testament to a community that once thrived against the odds in this challenging landscape.
Fort Igloo Bunkers (Black Hills Ordnance Depot) (Provo)
Hidden in the remote expanses of the South Dakota landscape, near the small community of Provo, lie the remains of a fascinating piece of American military history: the Fort Igloo Bunkers. This abandoned site, once bustling with activity during the peak of World War II, now stands as a silent testament to a time when the world was in the grip of global conflict.
Established in the early 1940s as the Black Hills Ordnance Depot, Fort Igloo was a crucial hub for the storage and maintenance of munitions during World War II. Named ‘Igloo’ for the distinctive, dome-shaped structures used to store explosives and other ordnance, the depot sprawled over thousands of acres and housed thousands of military personnel and civilian workers at its peak.
However, as the demand for munitions storage declined with the end of World War II and subsequent conflicts, the operations at Fort Igloo gradually wound down. The depot was officially decommissioned in the 1960s, its personnel moved elsewhere, and the vast facility was largely abandoned.
How Things Look Today
Today, the Fort Igloo Bunkers are a sprawling ghost town of sorts, their once-busy thoroughfares silent and their many structures vacant. The site’s most distinctive features, the igloo-shaped concrete bunkers, remain in various states of decay, their sturdy construction weathering the passage of decades. The bunkers, designed to contain potential explosions, are now empty shells, their dangerous contents long since removed.
Though the site is private property and thus not open to public exploration, it’s possible to view the bunkers and other structures from certain vantage points around the perimeter. These glimpses of the abandoned facility are stark reminders of a time when the threat of war loomed large, and the nation’s defenses were marshalled on the South Dakota prairie.
Visiting the Fort Igloo Bunkers is a journey back in time, offering insights into a critical, yet often overlooked, part of American military history. The site’s eerie quiet, the desolation of its abandoned structures, and the echoes of its bustling past all combine to create a uniquely poignant experience.
Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians (Canton)
Situated in the small city of Canton, South Dakota, the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians serves as a grim reminder of a controversial and tragic chapter in American history. From its establishment in 1898 until its closure in 1934, the institution was the only asylum in the United States specifically dedicated to the treatment of Native Americans diagnosed with mental illness.
Originally named as the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, the institution was proposed as a measure to address perceived issues with mental illness among the Native American population.
However, in retrospect, it’s clear that the institution was deeply flawed from the outset. It housed many who were not mentally ill but were considered problematic or inconvenient by the wider society, including those whose only “crime” was a failure to adapt to forced assimilation.
The conditions at the asylum were notoriously poor. The facility was overcrowded, underfunded, and understaffed, with substandard medical care and a lack of proper supervision. The mortality rate was shockingly high, and many residents of the asylum were buried in an on-site cemetery.
In 1934, following a damning investigation, the Hiawatha Asylum was closed and the remaining residents were transferred to other facilities or returned to their families. The buildings of the asylum were demolished, and the land was repurposed.
How Things Look Today
Today, little remains of the institution except for the cemetery, where over 120 former residents are believed to be interred. The cemetery was neglected for many years, but efforts have been made in recent decades to properly commemorate those who were laid to rest there.
The Hiawatha Asylum serves as a potent reminder of the abuses suffered by Native American populations during the era of forced assimilation. While the physical structures of the asylum are gone, the memory of the institution and its residents lives on, a testament to a dark chapter in the nation’s history that must not be forgotten.
Visitors to the cemetery today will find a solemn site, a place of reflection and remembrance, and a stark reminder of the injustices that were once committed in the name of progress.
Capa Ghost Town (Capa)
Lying within the expansive prairies of South Dakota, Capa is a fascinating snapshot of history, now existing as a ghost town. It’s a stark reminder of the transient nature of certain types of settlement, especially those established during times of rapid expansion and development in American history.
Capa was originally founded in the early 20th century when the railroad expanded across the region. Like many such towns, Capa sprang up almost overnight, growing around a train depot. At its peak, Capa was home to a post office, a general store, a grain elevator, and a few dozen residents. The community thrived for several decades, but when rail transportation declined and was replaced by road networks, Capa’s fate was sealed.
With no railway to support its growth and existence, Capa began to lose residents, gradually transforming into a ghost town. The closing of the post office in the 1960s marked the end of an era, and the town was officially abandoned.
How Things Look Today
Today, Capa stands as a silent testament to the past. A handful of structures still dot the landscape, including the remains of the old train depot, some wooden buildings, and the grain elevator, once the economic lifeline of the town. Nature is slowly reclaiming the area, with wild grasses growing between the abandoned buildings and on the tracks where trains once rolled.
Visiting Capa offers an eerie yet captivating experience. It’s a place where one can almost hear the whispers of the past, echoing through the empty streets and the dilapidated structures.
Although it’s off the beaten path, the journey to Capa provides a unique opportunity to reflect on the ebb and flow of American settlement and the relentless march of progress. It’s a powerful, thought-provoking destination for those interested in history, heritage, and the haunting beauty of abandoned places.
Forest City Bridge (Forest City)
In the quiet and largely undeveloped Forest City, South Dakota, the ruins of the Forest City Bridge present a haunting, yet fascinating sight. The bridge stands as a monument to an era of burgeoning expansion and infrastructure development, and its current state of abandonment offers a stark contrast to its once crucial role in the local community.
The Forest City Bridge was built in the early 20th century, an important structure designed to connect the remote community with larger towns across the Missouri River. Crafted from steel and concrete, the bridge showcased the engineering prowess of the time. It provided a vital link for transportation, commerce, and communication for the people of Forest City and surrounding areas.
However, as modern highways and infrastructure developed, bypassing Forest City, the bridge gradually fell into disuse. Its strategic significance dwindled, and maintenance was eventually deemed unnecessary, leading to its abandonment.
How Things Look Today
Today, the Forest City Bridge stands in solitude, a skeletal structure arching over the waters of the Missouri River. Its once busy lanes now lie silent, hosting only the occasional adventurous explorer or photographer drawn to its haunting beauty. Nature has begun to reclaim the area, with vines creeping over the aged concrete and rust adorning the steel framework, giving the bridge a unique patina that speaks to its history.
Visiting the Forest City Bridge is a unique experience, evoking a sense of nostalgia and intrigue. Despite its decay, the bridge maintains a proud, albeit eerie, presence. It’s a vivid testament to the relentless march of time and progress, and a powerful symbol of a bygone era.
The area offers excellent opportunities for photography, exploration, and reflection on the area’s history and the passage of time. As such, the Forest City Bridge remains a poignant destination for those drawn to the stark beauty of abandoned structures and the stories they tell.
Our Final Thoughts on Abandoned Places in South Dakota
Those who are into urban exploration in the South Dakota area should get comfortable with South Dakota trespassing laws. Luckily, we have developed a massive guide to trespassing laws in all 50 states. For laws that specifically relate to South Dakota, please click here.
For more about obtaining permission to explore abandoned places, check out our guide Explore Abandoned Buildings: How To Get Permission. Finally, if you are wanting to find more abandoned places in South Dakota, check out my resource How To Find Abandoned Places With Google Maps.
- John Bourscheid, Killer Urbex