1880 Train: Hill City to Keystone
Written by Marcus Heerdt
August 12, 2019

In the 1870s, gold was discovered in the Black Hills and the construction of railroads quickly followed. The first steam engine arrived at the Homestake Mine in the northern hills community of Lead in 1879. The railroad track which now connects the towns of Hill City and Keystone was completed in 1900, and is now owned by Black Hills Central Railroad which operates the 1880 Train.

The 1880 Train attraction began operation in 1957 and runs on 10 miles of track between Hill City and Keystone. The railroad is the “oldest continuously operating tour railroad in the nation and operates three stream and two diesel engines throughout the season.” William Heckman founded the railroad as he thought “there should be one working steam railroad for boys of all ages who share America’s fondness for the rapidly vanishing steam locomotive.”

The train ride is a scenic journey through the heart of the Black Hills as it follows Battle Creek while it meanders through the mountains and forests of the area.

The 1880 Train operates May – December and more information can be found at https://www.1880train.com or call (605) 574-2222.



Smokey Bear: 75 Years of Preventing Wildfires
Written by Marcus Heerdt
August 5, 2019

On August 9, 1944, the US Forest Service officially authorized the creation of the Smokey Bear character in an effort to educate the public about preventing forest fires. The first poster depicting Smokey was displayed in October of the same year, with the bear wearing a hat and jeans with the slogan at the bottom reading, “Smokey says – Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fires!”

In 1950, a human-caused forest fire raged in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico within the Lincoln National Forest, burning a total of 17,000 acres. During the fire, a crew of firefighters spotted a black bear cub wandering on its own, and after a while, the bear climbed a tree and escaped the fire. The bear cub survived but suffered “badly burned paws and hind legs” which were then “treated and bandaged” after a joint rescue effort by firefighters, ranchers, and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. This bear became the “living symbol” of Smokey Bear and became an instant celebrity, and lived at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., for 26 years.

Smokey Bear now uses the familiar slogan, “Only you can prevent wildfires” and has two websites.

Smokey Bear Website: https://www.smokeybear.com/ 

75th Anniversary Website: https://www.smokeybear75th.org/

The Custer Area Chamber of Commerce has a wide variety of Smokey Bear merchandise available to purchase! Come visit us!

Area Smokey Bear Events

-Smokey Bear and General Custer will visit downtown Custer around noon and be available for pictures for about an hour

-From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Black Hills National Forest Supervisors Office will have an old forest service truck on display, cookies to eat, and Smokey will also be wandering around intermittently

-Smokey Bear will make an appearance at the Hot Springs Farmers Market from 4 – 6:30 p.m. There will be free activities, games, and cookies to eat. This event is sponsored by the Black Hills Parks and Forests Association and Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands

Celebrate Smokeys Birthday with some new Smokey wares.png



1880 Train: Hill City to Keystone
Written by Marcus Heerdt
August 12, 2019



Smokey Bear: 75 Years of Preventing Wildfires
Written by Marcus Heerdt
August 5, 2019



August is Family Fun Month
Written by Dolsee Davenport
July 29, 2019



Top 10 List of Things to See and Do at Mount Rushmore in 2019
July 23, 2019



Make Your Plans for Gold Discovery Days
Written by Dolsee Davenport
July 16, 2019


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