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Differences Between East River and West River

The Missouri River nearly cuts South Dakota into two perfect halves. That waterway is also the dividing line for many things in our state.

With the exception of eight months in Denver, I have lived in South Dakota for my entire life. Five of those years were spent in Spearfish and Rapid City so I have a fairly good grasp of the main differences between the two halves of the state.

Roads

East River has roads everywhere neatly arranged in one mile squares

Google Maps
Google Maps

Not counting the cities, there are a total of 10 roads in all of West River.

Google Maps
Google Maps

Snakes

East River there are garter snakes and they are harmless.

Barney Oldfield/Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Barney Oldfield/Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

West River has Prairie Rattlesnakes that can kill you.

Clipart
Clipart

Tourism

West River has the Badlands and the Black Hills.

Andy Erickson/Hot 104.7
Andy Erickson/Hot 104.7

East River has some neat stuff to see, but its biggest contribution to state tourism is the roads that lead to the Badlands and Black Hills.

Google Maps
Google Maps

Hills

Some areas East River are so flat that a little mound ten feet high is considered a hill.

South of Aberdeen (Google Maps)
South of Aberdeen (Google Maps)

The “Wasta Hill” as my friends and family have called it starts at the Wasta Exit on westbound I-90 and features a scenic continuous climb of 600 feet over the course of about four miles. It killed my first car in college and many others over the years.

Google Maps
Google Maps

Winter

The western half of West River enjoys the “Banana Belt” winter. Massive snow storms, even as late as June do occur, but there are always periods of spring or fall-like warmth.

Andy Erickson
Small amount of snow remaining in November 2016 – Andy Erickson

Once the first deep freeze hits East River everything freezes solid for at least three months.

SD Blizzard 2
ClipArt

Agriculture

West River ranchers ranch on ranches.

John Moore/Getty Images
John Moore/Getty Images

East River farmers farm on farms.

Clipart
Clipart

 

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