The Beauty in the Burning Bluffs
Earlier this month, I found an article that informed me on a natural geological oddity called The Burning (or Smoking) Bluffs right here in South Dakota. The Bluffs are located near the Platte-Winner mile long bridge, but sadly they have not been smoking for years. All the less it was still an exciting and eventful trip a little further out west than a typical day.
A day trip was planned between my friend and me to go out to the Missouri river and find these mysterious bluffs that neither he nor I ever heard of. Both of us are South Dakota natives, and with all that is South Dakota, we were both pleasantly surprised to hear that there is something else out there other than a big river. We packed our gear and went out west starting with Chamberlain, and for the first time, we took an up close look at Dignity. Dignity is the statue that stands tall over Chamberlin welded together by Rapid City artist Dale Lamphere. The statue was a gift to South Dakota in 2014 from Norm and Eunable of Rapid City in honor of the 125th anniversary of statehood. Dignity was designed with over 100 diamond shape on the quilt of the statue that “move like an aspen leaf” according to Lamphere. Dignity was made to keep in mind the indigenous people that made South Dakota rich in dignity, and she certainly stands tall.
After seeing Dignity, we decided to check out the rest of Chamberlin and even managed to see the South Dakota Hall Of Fame, which I found to be much more appealing on the outside than the inside. Also, who would’ve thunk that Chamberlain also is developing a dinosaur inspired park? After a brief trip around the city, it started to rain and our adventure to find the bluffs were becoming more stormy than smokey. To beat the rain, we decided to venture to the Bijou Hills before stopping to see the bluffs.
Bijou Hills was the highlight of the trip for me that day, it was very fun getting there (we pretty much drove through a hurricane), but the landscape was beautiful. We google mapped Bijou Hills (don’t do it), and it leads us to a small vineyard/home labeled Bijou Hills. Google took us to a town that was actually just a house, and according to the internet it only has a population of 6, and I truly think that’s over estimating. Driving on the empty highway oohing and ahhing at
the bold strikes of lightning paired with the dark skies was magical as is, but when the Bijou Hill came into perspective, it felt like I saw a whole new world. To someone who lives in the
hills or the mountains, it might not seem like much, but to my eyes it was beautiful. The prairie rustling with the wind as this massive dark storm is brewing in the distance, but the sunset has
cast a perfect lighting for the rolling hills. We just had to see more, so we parked my car at the end of a minimum maintenance road got out and walked up the hills. It was truly unique in the sense that this land has not been manipulated and every step we took might not have seen a man’s foot in years. We, however, could not spend much time out there nor could my friend fly his drone to get an epic perspective because of the approaching storm. We hope back into my car and go the distance and make our way to the Platte Winner bridge.
Once we arrive at the Platte-Winner bridge, we scout the area for the burning bluffs and drive up to a lookout point. Well it was starting to seem like the burning bluffs were a bluff, but after speaking to a local man, we realized that the bluffs have been inactive for several years. The man told us that it had been five or more years since the bluffs have smoked, and to get to the particular smoking bluff, you would have to go by boat. This surprised me since the article was recent when I discovered it but then after reading about the author of the article, she was not from anywhere near South Dakota so it made sense that the article would have lacked the information. Although no bluffs were smoking at the time, we still got an epic view of the bluffs and the Missouri river. When the bluffs are smoking, it is a chemical reaction of Iron sulfide reacting with oxygen and water, creating heat which releases the smoke. At the moment no one knows when the bluffs will start smoking again but when they do I will be there with my camera to capture the magic. As far as the rest of our trip, it concluded with some of Springfield’s famous Norms corn nuggets. Which is worth the trip out there to have fried cream corn, and is something the locals keep dear to their town and their stomachs. After all, it was not a bad trip, and something I look forward to doing time and time again.