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Why Spearfish, SD, Is a Top 100 Best Small Town

Spearfish offers natural attractions, quality health care to residents

By Heather R. Johnson on June 1, 2015

Spearfish Creek

Don’t let the slow pace of Spearfish, S.D., fool you. There’s no shortage of things to do or opportunities to make fast connections. 

Situated on the northern tip of the Black Hills National Forest, Spearfish offers a wealth of natural resources and relaxed vibe. The town of about 14,000 also offers educational and health-care services on par with much larger cities and contains one of the most powerful fiber optic telecommunications networks in the U.S.

The nearby 1.2-million acre national park provides a wealth of recreational opportunities, including mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing and hiking. Anglers can drop their line right in Spearfish Creek, which winds through town at about 29 feet wide.

“We’re an oasis out here in the midst of cornfields,” Spearfish Mayor Dana Boke says.

Family Fun and Nightlife

With events at Black Hills University, family activities, shopping and cultural attractions, Spearfish has no shortage of things to do. The D.C. Booth Historic Fish Hatchery, constructed in 1899, fascinates people of all ages with its underwater viewing areas and fish feeding. The Spearfish Waterpark and Recreation Center has water slides and pools as well as a full inventory of gym equipment. More than 25 other parks and athletic areas populate Spearfish, as well.

The Matthews Opera House, circa 1906, opens its doors to community theater and live performances. One of downtown’s highlights, however, takes place outside, every summer, when the city hosts its Friday night concert series.

“It’s a modern-day old-time street dance,” Boke says. “The kids can run around and it’s safe, and people get to see old friends and meet new ones. The community really comes together.”

With a close-knit feel, a low cost of living, and assortment of cultural and natural amenities, it’s no wonder vacationers return to make Spearfish their home. 

Healthy Community, Quality Health Care

Residents from nearby communities commute to Spearfish to take advantage of its top-notch health-care facilities. Spearfish Regional Hospital is one of only two hospitals in all of western South Dakota to offer maternity wards, among other services. The hospital recently added 7,500 square feet to accommodate recent growth.

“We have a high level of medical facilities that, if you look at it, our population doesn’t support,” Boke says. “We are a hub for medical, and the hospital is a major employer for our residents.”

Spearfish’s excellent health care, combined with options for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, makes the area attractive to retirees and families. The Spearfish School District serves about 2,100 students.

“The teachers are highly dedicated,” Boke says. “They are involved in the students’ lives, and they are our next-door neighbors, too.”

The district places high value on education and innovation: every high school student receives a laptop.

“We have a slow-paced lifestyle, but we strive to be innovative,” Boke says. “We work to stay at the forefront, but we balance that with protecting our history, quality of life and values.”

The school district also benefits from Black Hills University as a source for student teachers. The rest of Spearfish appreciates the college as a local educational institution, as a major source of employment, and for the live performances, art shows and other entertainment it provides.

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