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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Picturing Pierre, South Dakota

Picturing Pierre, take two

One of the hardest parts of living in the middle of nowhere is trying to describe to your friends and family just how middle of nowhere it really is.  Everyone thinks they know what a deserted back road is, but there's a good chance that your deserted highway and mine are nothing at all alike.

For example, look at this map of South Dakota. This shows the population of each county. (Sorry for the blurriness, if you click here you can see it larger and clearly.)

I live in Hughes County (the green one in the center), which is home to Pierre, the state capitol of South Dakota. (Pierre is pronouned like pier, by the way, not like a Frenchman .)  The population of the entire county is under 25,000. The city of Pierre accounts for about 13,600 of those people. Those tan counties surrounding me have a total population of under 6,000. Per County. South Dakota ranks 45th for population density, with a vast majority of the population concentrated in the two cities, one on each end.

The population of the state of South Dakota is about 815,000. The population of the city of San Francisco, is about 808,000.  This doesn't include the surrounding cities like Oakland, which brings the population to about 4.3 million.  There are 12 other U.S. cities with a larger population that my entire state.

What is your state like? Your town? Have you ever experienced a true wide open space? When I first moved to South Dakota driving through in the middle of the night was overwhelming to me and I'd start crying for no reason. True story.

I have a series of posts in mind to introduce you to small town life in the middle of the prairie. There are some small businesses that cry out for introduction and I'd like to show you one of our favorite museums.  There are a lot of things to love about living in a small place, as well as the negatives (the nearest Target is 2.5 hours away!), and I'm looking forward to sharing more about our life here.

Edited to add- I decided I wanted to link up to two other posts I've made about Pierre, to keep them all together.  For my first post on the Pierre Library go here (I have plans to blog about the library again soon), and for my post on the flood last summer, use that link.


  1. I am no stranger to wide open spaces or small town life. Iowa, although more populated than South Dakota, does not shatter any records for number of people living in it. The town I grew up in is 857 people big. The town I now live in is less than 2,000. However, I also feel like I have the best of both worlds. To get to a Target, I drive 25 minutes. The closest "big" town is just 20 minutes away, and its population is over 100,000. My children are used to small town life where they can go outside to play and not worry about being hit by a car. Their teachers know our entire family and so does their principal. My parents used to comment on whose car was parked uptown when they would drive by during the day. I always thought I would like moving/living in a big city, but the last time I visited one, I just wanted people to not be so close to me. I felt like I was on guard the entire time and always on the lookout for my kids. Maybe I'm getting old, but I am totally fine with small town life, even with some of the drawbacks.

  2. I live in a large city...250K is the population if not more at the time of this writing. Where do you do your shopping if Target is so far away? Do you have a Walmart?

  3. I love my small town Iowa life but that is after living in larger cities in my 20's and 30's. I've lived in Minneapolis/St Paul, Denver, Co., Little Rock and Chicago but chose to come "home" when the time was right. I love not having far to drive and NO rush hour traffic!

    I spent time in SD as a teenager and lived close to Aberdeen! It is a beautiful state and I can't wait to read your posts sharing what you love.

  4. Wow, that is literally the middle of nowhere. We live in a medium sized city that's smack dab between two large cities.

  5. DEFINITELY looking forward to more in this series of posts! My small town I grew up in is a pop of 1,200, and while the density around here is much higher, I've experienced those wide stretches of nothing in west Texas and New Mexico. It can be unsettling -- especially at first.

  6. Yes Ti, Pierre does have a Super Walmart, but the closest Kohl's, Target, Olive Garden, or Starbucks is three hours or more away to the west, east, or north. And currently we only have one airline that makes 2 flights in and 2 flights out a day.

  7. I love this post Lisa! DFW just got bumped up to the fourth largest metroplex in the country behind Chicago. My hometown was 250,000 and my current town is about 130,000 (both surrounded by millions). I remember reading about how small South Dakota was when we were on our roadtrip and it is truly amazing how isolated everything is. Wyoming is the same way--hundreds of miles without anything!

    My in-laws live out in the middle of the country where the closest GAS STATION is 25 minutes away (in the town we used to live...pop 5,000). I HATED it. We drove 30 minutes to get to a Walmart (they drive 45 minutes) and an hour to get to Abilene, which isn't very big either. Now when I complain about the 5 minute drive to Walmart Scott gives me the death stare. ;)

    Can't wait to hear more! You're the one who taught me how to say Pierre!!


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