July 21-28 2019
We had several reasons for spending time here. First, we have relatives that live a few minutes away from the Spearfish City Campground, where we stayed. Second, we wanted to scope out the area as a possible Phoenix Cruiser Travel Club rally site. One advantage in having family that’s lived here for many years is that they know all the best places to go and things to do. As it turned out Spearfish and the surrounding Black Hills area provide countless places to walk to, bike to, and drive to. If it wasn’t for the long, cold winters, Holly and I would have put Spearfish on our (short) list of places to settle when we’re done wandering in our Phoenix Cruiser.
While we were there the weather was terrific with warm sunny days and cool nights. The one day it rained our aunt and uncle took us on a driving tour through Deadwood. We stopped at an artist’s studio, Termesphere, where you can marvel at the amazing spheres created by Dick Termes. They spin and rotate and draw your eye into dimensional pictures painted on them. They are extremely cool. You can check them out here https://termespheres.com/ We drove up beautiful Spearfish Canyon for a very good lunch at Cheyenne Crossing Stage Stop Café before continuing on to Deadwood.
One word of advice. Stay away from the area during the Sturgis Motorcycle rally in August. The campground starts filling up with bikers at least a week before the rally starts. During the rally the rumble and roar of Harley-Davidson motorcycles is continuous. Even the locals leave, if they can. And if they can’t, they hunker down and stay very close to home.
Spearfish City Campground
Spearfish has a gorgeous campground that is very close to walking, hiking, and biking trails, Spearfish Creek, Spearfish City Park, DC Booth historic fish hatchery, and downtown shops, restaurants, and pubs. It makes an ideal hub for exploring the surrounding area. And what an area! There’s Spearfish Canyon, Deadwood, Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, and Rapid City all within an hour or two of the campground. A little farther out are Wall Drug, Badlands National Park, Wind Cave, and Jewel Cave.
If you are planning an event for up to 100 people, the Snappers Club is just the place. It is smack dab in the middle of the campground, but you don’t have to camp there to rent the facility. You can rent it for the entire day for $150. And that includes parking, an outdoor gathering area, and the club itself with all its amenities.
A 15 minute walk from the campground got us to (old) downtown Spearfish. The visitor center is worth stopping at to get ideas on where to go and what to see. There were plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, pubs, and stores to keep us occupied. It’s also great place to pub crawl. Sadly we’re well past that stage. For us it’s “One and done!”
On Friday evenings during the summer, Spearfish closes off several blocks of the downtown area, sets up a mobile stage, and brings in a live band, numerous food trucks, and drink vendors. We got there early and for a while it didn’t look like anyone was going to show up. But people finally started dribbling in. Locals set up lawn chairs in front of the stage. A few brave souls danced to the music, which was quite good. The energy level began to rise and the party finally got moving.
Spearfish City Park runs between the campground and the downtown area. It has hiking trails, picnic shelters, an exercise loop, benches, and tennis courts (that are also used for pickleball).
One of the park’s boundaries is Spearfish Creek which is a popular spot for families to fish, picnic, wade, and tube.
DC Booth Fish Hatchery
The DC Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery is a short walk from the campground. Admission is free.
While no longer a “full featured” fish hatchery it is still a wonderful place to visit and learn about the history of America’s fish hatcheries. In addition to an underwater viewing window, the site has a gift shop, museum, sculptures, a replica fisheries railcar, the fishery superintendent’s house, a fishery boat, and raceways. The hatchery also houses the US Fish and Wildlife Service Artifacts and Records Center.
At one time from two to four million fish were released from the Hatchery each year. Today that number is only 50,000.
Visitors are encouraged to buy fish food and feed the fish. From what we saw during our visit, children and most adults didn’t need much encouragement. And the fish don’t mind being continuously fed. They will literally jump at the chance.
The museum was chock full of all the things needed to run a fish hatchery from collecting and transporting fish eggs, incubating the eggs, raising the fish, preparing fish food, and transporting the fish to release points.
We’ve been to several modern fish hatcheries and it was fun to see how things were done in the early days. It was certainly a lot more work.
One of the coolest displays was the replica of a fish car, used to transport fish long distances. Those fish knew how to travel in style!
The fish traveled in cans and tanks located in compartments running along the sides of the car. I don’t think they had much of a view. The car could sleep a crew of four in overhead bunks. The captain had his own quarters at one end of the car. The kitchen was at the other end. At stops along the way, three of the crew, called messengers, would take containers of fish along branch lines and stock streams, lakes, and rivers. Despite being hard work, it wasn’t a bad way to see the country.
Boats like the one pictured above were used to gather fish eggs. They were called spawn collection boats. They were transported by train to a location near the collection point, then trucked to that point.