World’s Largest Prairie Dog Statue: Slice of Life #sol18

There are many reasons why I love living in South Dakota, and one of them is definitely its high number of oddball roadside attractions. Life-sized or near-life-sized or just really, really large dinosaur replicas abound. (I drove by three of them yesterday, and I wasn’t even trying.) There is a whole “palace” made of corn. If you’re looking for the world’s largest pheasant statue, look no further.

pheasant statue

I know some people make fun of weird roadside attractions or just don’t get them at all or only enjoy them in an ironic way, but I love them with no trace of irony whatsoever.  I will always, always exit the highway for the world’s largest ball of twine or the world’s largest pistachio.

world's largest pistachio

Yesterday, we went on an outing to one of South Dakota’s very best kitsch-free roadside attractions, the Badlands. It had to be one of the most beautiful days of the year to visit. Such blue skies and green grass to contrast with the layered sedimentary rock. We saw license plates from every state except Hawaii, but it still didn’t feel too crowded. We stopped at several overlooks for photos and then hiked the Notch Trail.

notch trail

It wasn’t a great day for wildlife–a lone buffalo grazing as we entered the park, a single pronghorn standing in a prairie dog town. But there near the exit was a small herd of bighorn sheep. Even from a distance, their improbable horns looked gigantic and so very heavy. Two males leaped into the air and clashed heads, then immediately settled down to keep grazing. There were no pull-offs, so cars simply parked on the road in both directions to watch.

bighorn sheep

The views and the turny-twisty road and the hike and the bighorn sheep are probably what I will remember from the day, but it wouldn’t have been an outing in South Dakota if it hadn’t been bookended by kitsch. Before entering the park, we made a quick stop at Wall Drug, perhaps the world’s ultimate kitschy roadside attraction, for donuts.

wall drug donuts

And to make it the most red letter of red letter days, after we exited the park, we just happened to stumble upon the world’s largest prairie dog statue. I had added this to my list of possible South Dakota field trips years ago, but my family never wanted to go. My husband and son, it turns out, are not the kind of people who feel compelled to exit the expressway for, say, a statue of the Jolly Green Giant.

jolly green giant

Or to go out of their way to see a twelve-foot tall statue of a prairie dog. But I don’t think they minded seeing it since it was already on the way.

prairie dog statue

I didn’t stop for a photo. I have to confess that I was a little put off by the live prairie dog town right next to the statue where a family was walking among the burrows and a little boy stood over a hole wielding a giant rock, presumably ready to beam an unsuspecting prairie dog on the noggin should one emerge.

prairie dog plague.jpeg

Maybe this family hadn’t yet driven through the Badlands and seen this sign. But all I could imagine was swirling pathogens, just ready to infect them with plague. It seems unlikely that humans could become infected with bubonic plague from prairie dogs, but the little rodents carry it and so it’s not totally outside the realm of possibility.

But even if plague-infested, a prairie dog town where a sign cautions you to “feed only unsalted prairie dog food” does make for a pretty stellar roadside attraction.

prairie dog feed sign






30 responses to “World’s Largest Prairie Dog Statue: Slice of Life #sol18”

  1. Ramona Avatar

    Love this! My dad could never pass a historic roadside sign without stopping to read them. Not as much fun as your roadside attractions, but I do think it may have contributed to my compulsion to read every word posted in museums!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I have a hard time skipping words at museums too. I’m sure you all learned a lot from those historical road signs!

  2. arjeha Avatar

    When I saw that pheasant it immediately reminded me of years age when I bought some cologne from Avon. It came in a pheasant shaped bottle. Your pictures make me want to take a small detour on our drive out to California later this summer.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      A pheasant shape is a bit odd for cologne! There is much of real interest to see in South Dakota in addition to all the weird stuff, which I know isn’t for everyone.

  3. Fran Haley Avatar

    I love odd things as well – not far from where I live was a giant Paul Bunyan and when he was moved, I was distraught. Imagine my delight on discovering him a few miles away, advertising log cabins with the addition of a giant blue ox, Babe! I was accordingly delighted by your Jolly Green Giant shot (besides, he’s a lifelong icon, isn’t he, on our canned and frozen goods).What a fun, lively read – with great shots.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I never knew I loved odd stuff until I drove cross-country from the East Coast about 15 years ago and found myself eager to stop at every “world’s largest” sign in Minnesota and South Dakota–and there are quite a few! The Jolly Green Giant made me quite happy! The Internet informs me that there are several places in America where you can find giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe. Isn’t the world a wonderful place??

  4. carwilc Avatar

    Like you, I love these kinds of things, and like your son, my boys think I’m absolutely ridiculous!. I really want to see Mount Rushmore this summer. I may have to try to visit some of these places as well!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I live very close to Mt Rushmore, so let me know if you come visit! There’s lots of wonderful stuff around here–from the ridiculous to the sublime!

  5. elsie Avatar

    I love the oddities along the road too, but alas my husband is not a fan. We did stop at the Corn Palace and Wall Drug when we traveled from Minnesota to Yellowstone many years ago. I loved the Badlands and was so disappointed in the color that didn’t come through on my camera. I also love strange signage and it makes me laugh, even though I do pay attention to the warnings. Hope you will get to spot some other odd thing on your road trip.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      My photos taken yesterday were pretty terrible too. Much better ones online! My favorite photo I took yesterday was a rattlesnake warning photo with pretty much no landscape in it. I LOVE taking photos of peculiar signs. I’m planning to see as much odd stuff as possible on two upcoming road trips. I’ll be by myself for one of them, with no one to groan when I make detours to see a dinosaur made of scrap metal!

  6. tbreitweiser Avatar

    What a fun “trip” I got to take from your post today! Thanks!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thanks for visiting!

  7. margaretsmn Avatar

    I never knew South Dakota was such a fun place to visit. Thanks for the virtual trip. Hilarious road side attractions.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s really amazing what people (ME!!) will pull over to see!

  8. Akilah Avatar

    Wait, wait, wait. What makes the Wall Drug so kitschy?

    Also, I would have to stop and take pics with the Jolly Green Giant. HAVE TO.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Check out this photo! There are also animatronics cowboy singers and dinosaurs and so forth plus over 300 roadside signs along the highway in SD advertising Wall Drug. (The signs are my favorite–there are signs as far away as London!)

  9. Diane Anderson (newtreemom) Avatar

    Made me remember a long ago trip and the seemingly hundreds of signs that led us to Wall Drug and a fun stop!
    Thanks for a fun read! Close to home a company that sells mobile homes has a giant cow paints it different colors to celebrate successes by local sports teams.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love the Wall Drug signs!! That’s really my favorite thing about Wall Drug. About 10-12 years ago, Denver had a wonderful outdoor art exhibit downtown of a cow parade–about 100 painted cows, I think. Some were just incredibly creative. I think that most of my blog readers would especially like this one:

  10. Trina Haase Avatar
    Trina Haase

    What a fun post. This reminds me of when I was in middle school and our family ventured out West, including South Dakota. It made me think of this trip fondly!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I feel like eventually, every person I know is going to drive through South Dakota on that obligatory Americana road trip with their kids!!

  11. Amanda Potts Avatar

    I love everything about this post. Years ago, I drove through South Dakota with a girlfriend. We stopped so. many. times. Corn Palace? check. Wall Drug? check. Badlands? check. Best state ever – and we did not even see the giant prairie dog or the giant pheasant. I kind of feel like I need to go back… In exchange, you can drive near my hometown in South Carolina and see the world’s largest peach.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’ve seen the world’s largest peach!! (Used to be an East Coast girl.) There’s a gazillion miles between exits in South Dakota and literally miles of nothing, but somehow so much to see and do! It’s actually a super fun place to live. I have a two page list of outings within a two hour drive for my family to work on doing and we aren’t even a quarter finished. (Now I can check world’s largest prairie dog off the list!!)

  12. readingteachsu Avatar

    So many things to love definitely share your love of unexpected roadside finds. We made a pact never to pass them by. I remember our kids loving watching the prairie dogs in the Badlands and staying in a old old roadside motel. Those are memories.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s a wonderful place for a family road trip. Plenty of natural beauty and history and also all the kitsch you can handle and more! I love that your family had a pact never to pass an unexpected roadside find by.

  13. cmargocs Avatar

    I enjoyed this vicarious field trip! My hubby and I would have stopped for everything. Reminds me of our compunction to take pictures of county courthouses here in Texas.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I grew up in Georgia and my mom made a cross-stitch of our county courthouse! Is this some kind of unusual Southern habit??

  14. Robbie Yates Avatar

    I love all things gigantic…
    …no, that was far too vague.
    I love big things except for giant prairie dogs with plague!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Glad it’s not just me!! Once you know prairie dogs carry plague, it’s kind of hard to find them cute anymore! I fell down an Internet hole yesterday writing this post and searching for “world’s largest….” So many weird things that human beings have made!

      1. Robbie Yates Avatar

        Well right here in Australia,
        We’ve giant statues – tons.
        A rocking horse, an orange
        A lobster (that one’s fun!).
        So if you ever come here
        (I know that flights aren’t cheap)
        At least you’ll get to see
        Our giant pineapple and sheep! 🍊🍍🐑

  15. […] A slice about my love for oddball roadside attractions […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: