It’s hard to separate fact from fiction in a place like Deadwood, South Dakota. A former epicenter of discovery, economy, prosperity, scandal, and one of the few last remarkable instances of true American adventure. At the beginning of the town it was a story of gold. Gold, and then brothels and saloons and men riding past waving pistols and gamblers and prospectors. They got drunk and played cards, and found jobs hacking away at subterranean rock. One day in 1876 famed Western gunfighter, gambler and celebrity Wild Bill Hickok came to town and was shot in the back of the head at a saloon on Main Street while holding a two-pair hand of black aces and eights.
Deadwood and all of its tales have been immortalized in movies, museums of the Old West, in pictures in American history textbooks and, most vividly, the HBO show Deadwood. But in Deadwood, the real one, fiction becomes fact: it is true there are gold in the hills, it is true that this was the home of scoundrels in life who became heroes in death, and when a staged gun fight erupts in the middle of Main Street in front of Saloon 10, it represents the real ones that were common over 100 years ago.
The premier destination for rooting around real life artifacts from the Old West, the Adams Museum was founded in 1930 by W.E Adams, not too long after the end of the storied period itself. Here visitors can discover historical details through Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane memorabilia, see the displays of Lakota bead and quill work, marvel at a replica of Potato Creek Johnny’s golden nugget (the largest one ever found in the Black Hills) and become acquainted with Deadwood’s earliest settlers and inhabitants. Admission is by donation, but the suggested price is $5. Not a shabby price to pay to hang out with a group of rowdy cowboys.
In a sense, visitors to Deadwood, SD, are cut from the same cloth of those early settlers who found the first golden flakes buried in the Black Hills. There’s history in the art of gambling and sometimes you walk home with a face full of soot and very little to show and sometimes you press a button on a machine, watch three cherries spin out on the screen and admire the shower of quarters before you. The poker, of course, remains constant, an art, a game that delivers great winnings and provided the downfall of Deadwood’s own fallen hero, Wild Bill. Cadillac Jack’s is not just a casino, it’s a gaming resort, and the difference is that its guests never actually have to leave the premises if they need to tuck in for the night. Over 200 slot machines, high stakes poker tournaments, a veritable blackjack pit and many more games lets its gamblers recapture the Old West sensibility of running to the hills to hit it big.
As a lasting tribute to the settlement of the Black Hills, the Broken Boot Mine is just as busy and successful now than it was as a working mine back in 1878. The hills were alive, buzzing with some undiscovered gold but mostly undiscovered iron pyrite (otherwise known as "fool’s gold"), iron and sulfur. Before long, however, the industries that demanded such offerings came and went, leaving this mine vacant and in the hands of the founder’s descendent, who then leased it to a group of enterprising Deadwood businessmen to be used as a tourist attraction. Visitors get taken underground into the actual mine shaft and learn about the everyday lives of the former workers, discover the antiquated technology used, and try their hand at panning for gold.
The Lodge at Deadwood is one of the newer gaming resorts in the area and has already carved a name for itself in the luxury accommodation game. Located just a short drive from Deadwood proper, the hotel offers a shuttle to Main Street every day for a dollar. The complex itself features two restaurants (a sports bar and the Deadwood Grille), 140 nonsmoking guestrooms and suites, an indoor water park, a huge casino with all of the newest games: 280 slot machines and some of the largest table games near Deadwood.
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