Harney Peak

Harney Peak

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Harney Peak is the highest natural point in South Dakota
South Dakota
South Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States. It is named after the Lakota and Dakota Sioux American Indian tribes. Once a part of Dakota Territory, South Dakota became a state on November 2, 1889. The state has an area of and an estimated population of just over...

. Harney Peak is located within the Black Elk Wilderness
Black Elk Wilderness
The Black Elk Wilderness is located in the U.S. state of South Dakota. The wilderness was designated by an act of Congress in 1980. Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Black Elk Wilderness is part of Black Hills National Forest. This 13,426 acre region is considered sacred to Native Americans,...

 area, in southern Pennington County
Pennington County, South Dakota
As of the census of 2000, there were 88,565 people, 34,641 households, and 23,278 families residing in the county. The population density was 32 people per square mile . There were 37,249 housing units at an average density of 13 per square mile...

, within Black Hills National Forest
Black Hills National Forest
Black Hills National Forest is located in southwestern South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming. The forest has an area of over 1.25 million acres and is managed by the Forest Service. Forest headquarters are located in Custer, South Dakota...

. At 7244 feet (2,208 m), it is also the highest summit
Summit (topography)
In topography, a summit is a point on a surface that is higher in elevation than all points immediately adjacent to it. Mathematically, a summit is a local maximum in elevation...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 east of the Rocky Mountains
Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountains are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States...

 and the highest point within the Black Hills
Black Hills
The Black Hills are a small, isolated mountain range rising from the Great Plains of North America in western South Dakota and extending into Wyoming, USA. Set off from the main body of the Rocky Mountains, the region is something of a geological anomaly—accurately described as an "island of...



The peak was named in the late 1850s by Lieutenant Gouverneur K. Warren
Gouverneur K. Warren
Gouverneur Kemble Warren was a civil engineer and prominent general in the Union Army during the American Civil War...

 in honor of General William S. Harney
William S. Harney
William Selby Harney was a cavalry officer in the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War and the Indian Wars. He was born in what is today part of Nashville, Tennessee but at the time was known as Haysborough....

, who was commander of the military in the Black Hills area in the late 1870s.
Board on Geographic Names Decision: Harney Peak (1906)

The first European American
European American
A European American is a citizen or resident of the United States who has origins in any of the original peoples of Europe...

s believed to have reached the summit were a party led by General George Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer was a United States Army officer and cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the Indian Wars. Raised in Michigan and Ohio, Custer was admitted to West Point in 1858, where he graduated last in his class...

 in 1874, during the Black Hills expedition
Custer's 1874 Black Hills Expedition
The Black Hills Expedition was a United States Army expedition in 1874 led by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer that set out on July 2, 1874 from modern day Bismarck, North Dakota, which was then Fort Abraham Lincoln in the Dakota Territory, with orders to travel to the previously...

. Custer, along with five other men rode on horseback much of the way, and Custer forced his mount higher after the others in his party had dismounted, which one of the party, engineer W. H. Wood, later described as "cruel."

Harney Peak is the site of the Sioux
The Sioux are Native American and First Nations people in North America. The term can refer to any ethnic group within the Great Sioux Nation or any of the nation's many language dialects...

 Native American
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 Black Elk
Black Elk
Heȟáka Sápa was a famous Wičháša Wakȟáŋ of the Oglala Lakota . He was Heyoka and a second cousin of Crazy Horse.-Life:...

's "Great Vision" which he received when nine years old and the site to which he returned as an old man, accompanied by writer John Neihardt
John Neihardt
Johnathan Gneisenau Neihardt was an American author of poetry and prose, an amateur historian and ethnographer, and a philosopher of the Great Plains...

, who popularized the medicine man
Medicine man
"Medicine man" or "Medicine woman" are English terms used to describe traditional healers and spiritual leaders among Native American and other indigenous or aboriginal peoples...

 in his book Black Elk Speaks
Black Elk Speaks
Black Elk Speaks is a 1932 book by John G. Neihardt, an American poet and writer, who relates the story and spirituality of Black Elk, an Oglala Sioux medicine man or shaman. It was based on conversations by Black Elk with the author and translated from Lakota into English by Black Elk's son, Ben...

. See chapter 3 and the Author's Postscript of Black Elk Speaks, Bison Books, 2004.

Neihardt recorded Black Elk's words regarding his vision as follows: “I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world,” he is quoted as saying in Neihardt's book. “And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.”


The summit can be reached by following the trails either from Sylvan Lake, Camp Remington, Highway 244, Palmer Creek Rd., Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota, in the United States...

, or Horse Thief Lake
Horse Thief Lake
Horse Thief Lake is a lake in Pennington County, South Dakota. It is approximately two miles to the northwest of Mount Rushmore, making it the closest lake to that monument. It appears to be the lake seen north of Mount Rushmore in the 2007 Disney movie National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets when the...


From the trailhead
A trailhead is the point at which a trail begins, where the trail is often intended for hiking, biking, horseback riding, or off-road vehicles...

 at Sylvan Lake (located within Custer State Park
Custer State Park
Custer State Park is a state park and wildlife reserve in the Black Hills of southwestern South Dakota, USA. The park is South Dakota's largest and first state park, named after Lt...

) to the summit and back is about 6 miles (9.7 km). This is the shortest, least strenuous, and most popular route. No permit is for use of the first portion of the trail. However, the United States Forest Service
United States Forest Service
The United States Forest Service is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture that administers the nation's 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands, which encompass...

 requires hikers to obtain a permit at a self-service kiosk located at the entrance to the Black Elk Wilderness area, en route to the summit.

An abandoned fire lookout tower
Fire lookout tower
A fire lookout tower, fire tower or lookout tower, provides housing and protection for a person known as a "fire lookout" whose duty it is to search for wildfires in the wilderness...

 is situated on the summit. A plaque at the base of the tower reads "Valentine McGillycuddy, Wasicu Wacan", marking the grave of Valentine McGillycuddy
Valentine McGillycuddy
Dr. Valentine Trant McGillycuddy was a controversial pioneer of the effort to build a sustainable relationship between the United States and the Native American people. As the surveyor for the Newton-Jenney Party, McGillycuddy was the first known person to climb Harney Peak in the Black Hills of...


See also

  • Black Hills
    Black Hills
    The Black Hills are a small, isolated mountain range rising from the Great Plains of North America in western South Dakota and extending into Wyoming, USA. Set off from the main body of the Rocky Mountains, the region is something of a geological anomaly—accurately described as an "island of...

  • Mountain peaks of North America
    Mountain peaks of North America
    This article comprises three sortable tables of major mountain peaks of greater North America.This article defines greater North America as the portion of the continental landmass of the Americas extending northward from Panama plus the islands surrounding that landmass...

  • Mountain peaks of the United States
    Mountain peaks of the United States
    This article comprises three sortable tables of the major mountain peaks of the United States of America.Topographic elevation is the vertical distance above the reference geoid, a precise mathematical model of the Earth's sea level as an equipotential gravitational surface...

  • List of mountains in South Dakota

External links