Only 14 miles from Hill City, Keystone has chosen a more hit-‘em-over-the-head, commercial presentation of itself. It’s very centrally located, so it’s difficult to avoid it when driving anywhere. Our first introduction to Keystone was on the way to Mount Rushmore. I was appalled by the excessive advertising in the form of billboards, large, garishly ugly signs, and gimmicky, fake-looking "frontier" and "mining" motifs in front of virtually every business. Stop lights, crowds, congestion, and gridlock; avoid Keystone if you’re looking to get away from these.
I must admit, though, that we finally purchased a wooden plaque for our motor home in Keystone, at a little stand in front of Keystone House. You’ve seen them, identifying the inhabitants of the motor home, often including pets. Since we don’t have pets, we had the craftsperson etch in a few cacti, reminiscent of our winter times in Arizona.
Keystone was founded in 1891, named after Keystone Mine along Battle Creek. In 1894, the more profitable Holy Terror Mine began operations, yielding $10,000 worth of gold per week, and the coming of the railroad in 1900 increased mining activities. After numerous cave-ins and a disastrous mine fire in 1903, the Holy Terror was closed and filled up with water. Through the years, draining attempts were unsuccessful. Nearby mines produced other minerals, such as tin, spodumine crystals, and feldspar.
But it was the building of the Mount Rushmore Memorial that established Keystone as a tourist hotspot. In the 1920s, the area immediately around Mt. Rushmore was restricted from further development; Keystone filled the gap, only too eager to supply the needs of Mt. Rushmore visitors. Rushmore Borglum Historical Center provides more information about the sculptor of the Presidents’ memorial. We didn’t stop there, because we felt we got enough information at the memorial itself and hated the excessive billboards advertising them literally all over the Black Hills, even into the Wyoming Devil’s Tower area. Presidents Alpine Slide promises thrills by taking you in a chair lift to the top of a hill, where you can eat a cheeseburger while looking at Mt. Rushmore, then take a speedy sled ride or a tamer chairlift back down the hill. The National Presidential Wax Museum is where you can find wax reproductions of US presidents in period costume amidst historical settings. Another billboard offender we didn’t visit was Beautiful Rushmore Cave, advertising a one-hour guided tour, gift shop and snacks. Big Thunder Gold Mine offers "free" samples of gold ore when you take the tour. There are also plenty of shops selling curios, t-shirts, and mostly cheap (and some expensive) souvenirs.
Keystone has lots of places to eat, and we ate quick lunches at two of them: Trail Drive Barbecue and Eno’s Pizza and Pub. The bison burger at the Trail Drive was tasty, but there was an extra charge for lettuce, onion, and tomato slices. At Eno’s, we split a big sub sandwich. It filled our stomachs but wasn’t anything special. During the weeks we spent in the Black Hills, it didn’t take many drives through Keystone to get our fill of that town as well.