Saturday, June 20, 2009

Day 17 Elk Creek Resort and Campground Piedmont, SD Rapid City, Chapel in the Hills, Thunder Head Falls

Captain’s Blog
June 19, 2009

We decided to move our operation near Rapid City. We have done the loop and plan to tour Deadwood. We arrived at Elk Creek Resort

and Campground (loosely named) around Noon. It is not exactly resort-like but in a nice location and again half-price with our Passport America card.

We were getting ready to go into Rapid City when a couple in a Fifth Wheel arrived and promptly got their Fifth-wheel stuck in the mud. The camper looked like it was going to topple over and break away from its tow vehicle. Ron went over to see if he could help the man out but he was totally stuck. The owners of the campground called a tow truck and eventually they did get him loosed from the muddy hole he was in.

Our first stop was at the Chapel in the Hills in Rapid City. The Chapel in the Hills built in Rapid City in 1969 is an exact replica of the famous 850 year-old Borgund Stavkirke located near Laerdal, Norway. The Chapel was built with the plans and permission of the Norwegian Government.

It was built as a home for the radio program Lutheran Vespers. After a few years the American Lutheran Church combined with other Lutheran Churches and became the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The radio program was removed from Chapel in the Hills and the chapel was left without support.

The Chapel in the Hills has no congregation, receives no funds from any local, state or national church or any other organization The funds to maintain and operate the Chapel come from donations, weddings and sales from the gift shop.

The Chapel is exquisitely beautiful with extraordinary craftsmanship seen throughout the structure. The front door is known as the men’s door. In the early church, men stood on one side and women and children stood on the other. The side door is known as the women’s door.

There is another entrance to the chapel with a long hallway. Lepers were not allowed inside the chapel but were allowed to receive the sacraments from a small sliding door in the pulpit.

The chapel is without a doubt the most unique we have seen and equally as beautiful. We took the prayer walk behind the chapel also beautiful and inspiring and Ron has learned how to pray.

A “Stabbur” with a grass roof was carved in Norway and imported to be a reception center and gift shop. It is an unusual and very pretty building but the roof needs to be mowed.

Our next stop was at Thunderhead Falls located 600 feet inside a mountain that was once used for gold mining. Thunderhead owners filed their claim in 1881 under the name of Ft. Meade Hydraulic Gold Mining Company. The company worked the claim until 1900. Over the course of its twenty-year history the entire 600 feet of tunnel was hand-drilled and blasted out with the aid of black gunpowder. They never did hit the “Mother Lode” every miner’s dream.


No one really knows how the waterfall was formed but speculation is that early miners blasted a hole into rapid creek’s bed creating the unique waterfall.

After the mine’s closing it went unnoticed until 1949 when an inquisitive passenger on the old Crouch Line, a sightseeing rail venture, noticed a stream of water pouring from the side of the mountain. Vera Eklund convinced her husband to find the source of the water flow. To their surprise the horizontal tunnel ended in a waterfall deep within the mountain. The Eklunds then acquired the land from the heirs, established a road to the gold mine and by 1950, the underground waterfall was open to the public.

The falls are presently owned by the Johnson family who continue to operate with the intent of keeping the area as natural as possible.

The tunnel leading to the falls was an easy walk and the power of the waterfall reminded us of the power of the waterfalls at Niagara.

Our next stop was to the Rapid City Historic downtown. Rapid City has a population of just over 67,000 and is the biggest city in South Dakota. The city is well maintained, clean with few empty storefronts. On many corners is a bronze statue of a president of the U.S. The goal of the city is to have as statue of every president within the city proper as its show of patriotism to our country.
A stop at a local park to take in the views, watch the birds and enjoy the weather was next. Then it was on to Walmart for grocery shopping. Once again the weather changed from sunny to dark and rainy in an instance – lasting only a few minutes. Another day completed.

Now just let me get that last day of the BLOG in!

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