07-Jun-2002 -- Joseph Kerski, USGS Geographer, and John Whiting, Water Resources Specialist with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, departed for 43 North 103 West following three days of Geographic Information Systems training at Sinte Gleska University. We were joined by John's daughter, Rae Stone Man. We traveled west for two hours from Mission, South Dakota, site of Sinte Gleska University, on US Highway 18, and then south on a well-maintained dirt road, Fall River County 3E. After approximately 15 miles, John aimed his truck off the road to the southeast, along a faint track that eventually placed us at what was considered by late 19th Century surveyors as 43 N and 103 W. This can be seen in the photograph of John and Rae standing by the fence junctions, which were constructed along this historical survey. A US Coast and Geodetic Marker exists at this spot (see photograph). We walked approximately 25 meters southeast of this marker to reach the exact position as recorded by a Garmin XL 12 receiver.
The confluence sits atop one of the numerous rounded ridgelines in the area that is aligned northwest to southeast. The region lies between the Nebraska sand hills to the southeast and the Black Hills to the northwest and is covered by grasses approximately 10cm high with trees growing only in riparian zones along streams. A few springs, seeps, and wells provide ponds in the area used for grazing, the predominant land use. Two dwellings were visible to the south (see photograph). The largest city in the area, Chadron, Nebraska, is 11 miles to the south but not visible from the site (see south view). The Black Hills are visible near US Highway 18 that we had just driven from. We spotted cows and a few pronghorned antelopes (see photograph).
Unlike the confluence we had visited the previous day (43 N 101 W) where the Nebraska-South Dakota state line (43 N) was a few hundred meters SOUTH of the confluence, the same state line here was approximately 15 meters NORTH of the confluence (see photograph of fence line along state line). Still, when one considers the equipment available to surveyors in the 1880s, it is remarkable how close they came to the true position: Their mark was at 43.00087 and -103.00087. A Coast and Geodetic Survey benchmark (see photograph) exists at this fenceline corner. Given my work at the USGS, I was hoping it would be a USGS benchmark, but I was pleased to see the CGS benchmark nonetheless!
This confluence sits on the southwestern corner of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. An Indian Allotment benchmark from 1917 marks this corner (see photograph). Beginning at this point, an 1876 agreement shaved land north of the southern boundary of Dakota Territory and west of 103 longitude to the western edge of the Dakota Territory off of the Great Sioux Reservation. This removed the Sioux from the Black Hills in an effort to ensure that gold and other mining there would continue, despite the fact that the Black Hills were sacred to the Sioux. Because of these events, this confluence had special significance for my companions John and Rae, who are part Rosebud Sioux. During the visit, John provided us an incredible wealth of information about history, geology, water resources, boundaries, climate, and geography.
Spreading from the site to the northwest is Fall River County and the Buffalo Gap National Grassland. The area in Dawes County, Nebraska, to the south, is privately owned. The confluence is actually in Dawes County, Nebraska. We spotted one vehicle upon our arrival and then observed two men in another vehicle who appeared to be BLM employees who were firefighters for the National Grassland.
We arrived at the site at approximately 11am local time under a partly cloudy sky that cast wonderful shadows upon the terrain. The temperature was approximately 65 degrees and quite breezy, as one can easily hear (play movie). We stayed approximately 1 hour and visited one more granite state line marker, which exist every half mile. Then we parted ways--John and Rae for another part of South Dakota, and I for Colorado.