Spearfish, South Dakota

Nicknamed Queen City, Spearfish is a small city situated in Lawrence County on the westernmost side of the US State of South Dakota, close to its border with Wyoming. This small community has been named after the Sioux Native Americans who previously lived here and used to spear fish in the fast-moving creek of the same name. The city was originally established in 1876 and the population grew considerably due to the Black Hills Gold Rush happening at that time. Today, the city attracts visitors due to the abundance of outdoor nature adventures that are available in the area at Spearfish Canyon.

Geography And Climate Of Spearfish

Aerial view of Spearfish, South Dakota
Aerial view of Spearfish, South Dakota.

Spearfish covers a total area of 42.35 sq.km, of which 42.32 sq.km is occupied by land and 0.03 sq.km is covered by water. The city is placed in the northern Black Hills, at the mouth of the Spearfish Canyon, approximately 70 km northwest of Rapid City. The fast-moving Spearfish Creek flows from the north to south direction through the city's heart. Located just south of Spearfish is the Spearfish Canyon, a deep, narrow limestone gorge. At present, the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway along U.S. Route 14 A, winds through the canyon. 

A red car drives in a fall landscape of Spearfish Canyon in Spearfish, South Dakota
A red car drives in a fall landscape of Spearfish Canyon in Spearfish, South Dakota. Editorial credit: Pierre Jean Durieu / Shutterstock.com

As per the Koppen Climate Classification, Spearfish experiences a humid continental climate, with short, warm summers and long, freezing winters. Due to the city's location at the base of the Black Hills and close to the High Plains, the climate is highly variable throughout the year. The hottest month in Spearfish is July, with an average high temperature of 84°F. The coldest month is December, with an average low temperature of 18°F. The city receives an average annual precipitation of 21.41 inches and an average snowfall of 29.5 inches. 

History Of Spearfish

Welcome sign to Spearfish, South Dakota
Welcome sign to Spearfish, South Dakota. Editorial credit: melissamn / Shutterstock.com

The city of Spearfish was first officially established by settlers in 1876 and was initially referred to as Queen City. Before then, the Sioux Native Americans lived in the area and would spear fish in the creek, naming the area Spearfish. The town’s population grew to 671 residents by 1890, with settlers arriving from far and wide in pursuit of gold. Over the years, the city developed as an agricultural center, and foodstuffs produced in the irrigated farmlands were supplied to the Black Hills mining camps. In 1893, a railroad was established but was comletely destroyed by flooding in 1933. From 1938 onwards, the Black Hills Passion Play started performing in an outdoor amphitheater and began attracting thousands of spectators annually during the summer months. 

Population And Economy Of Spearfish

Spearfish historic commercial district, Lawrence County, South Dakota
Spearfish historic commercial district, Lawrence County, South Dakota. Image Credit: JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD, via Wikimedia Commons

As per the latest US Census, Spearfish has a population of 12,193 inhabitants. The top ethnic groups in Spearfish include White (Non-Hispanic) at 91%, Two and more races (Non-Hispanic) at 2.82%, American Indian and Alaska Native (Non-Hispanic) at 2.27%, White (Hispanic) at 1.52%, and Asian (Non-Hispanic) at 1.23%. 

About 15.4% of people in Spearfish are cited living in poverty, while the median household income is $50,072 and median property value is $223,200. The region has a diverse work force, with much employment coming from a variety of other employment fields. Accommodation and Food Services employ the most number of people in the region, with around 933 workers in that sector. Health Care and Social Assistance came in as a close 2nd for most employed industry in Spearfish, with 878 people working in that sector. Educational Services, Retail Trade, and Professional Scientific and Technical Services account for the rest of the most employed industries in Spearfish. 

Attractions In Spearfish

Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway in Spearfish, South Dakota
Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway in Spearfish, South Dakota. 

Spearfish Canyon is a deep, narrow limestone gorge that is situated on the northern edge of the Black Hills Forest. The canyon itself is a passage into an ancient mountain range, and it attracts thousands of visitors each year as one of the main tourist attractions in the region. In fact, despite Spearfish’s small population, it is estimated that 160,000 people visit the area annually to participate in the recreational activities that the landscape offers. There is also a scenic byway that you can drive along and witness the sights.

The Spearfish Creek flowing through the Spearfish City Campground in Spearfish, South Dakota
The Spearfish Creek flowing through the Spearfish City Campground in Spearfish, South Dakota. 

Visiting the Spearfish Creek is a must for any nature lover. The Black Hills National Forest encompasses the area, so you can explore the region all day while observing the wildlife, fishing or picnicking. Year round fishing is also possible because the creek actually freezes from the bottom up. It never completely ices over because of how fast the water moves. The ice buildup forms from the bottom up due to the speed at which is flows, so you can drop a line into the water at any time of the year.

Crow Peak is one of the most popular lookout destinations in the area. The original Sioux name for the area was Paha Karitukateyapi, which means ‘the hill where the crows are killed”. To get to the top, you must climb about 16,000 feet via a 3.5 mile hiking trail. You can get there via foot, mountain bike, or even horseback. The elevation at the top is about 5760 feet.

Bridal Veil Falls along the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway in the Black Hills National Forest
Bridal Veil Falls along the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway in the Black Hills National Forest.

Bridal Veil Falls is another popular destination when visiting Spearfish, South Dakota. The 60 foot tall cascade is also the most accessible waterfall in the entire gorge. The waterflow is most active in the spring, while slowing down considerably in the late summer and autumn months.

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