Why You Need To Spend A Day At Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
Located 70 miles east of Rapid City stands a fascinating, and terrifying, piece of history. Preserved by the national park system, The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site allows visitors to fully grasp the history and climate of fear that existed during the Cold War.
From 1949 to 1991, America was in a nuclear fueled standoff with the former Soviet Union. Beneath the rolling plains of western South Dakota stood hundreds of weapons of mass destruction. Today, this park has been preserved to make it feel like the military never left. A visit to Minuteman is guaranteed to not only be the most unique park you’ve ever visited – but also the wildest.
WHAT CAN YOU TOUR?
The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is a three-part park. It includes the Visitor Center at exit 131, the Launch Control Facility and Launch Control Center at exit 127, and the Delta-09 Missile at exit 116.
The Visitor Center
The Visitor Center is home to the museum and where you can watch the 28-minute park film "Beneath The Plains: The Minuteman Missile On Alert". Museum exhibits cover everything from the technology, service men and women, reactions of citizens, the call for civil defense, and more. It’s the best place to begin your tour of the Minuteman Missile NHS. You can also virtually tour the Launch Control Facility and Launch Control Center in the Visitor Center theatre if the park has the personnel available. The Visitor Center is also where you’ll find the Gift Shop.
The Delta-01 Launch Control Facility
Like many things about the Minuteman Missile NHS, Delta-01 doesn’t look very impressive on the surface. However, touring the Launch Control Facility and Control Center comes in high demand because it’s the last remaining Minuteman I modernized control center and launcher in the world. Considered the “crown jewel” of the park, during the summer season it is impossible to get a tour without making a reservation 90 days in advance. Why you ask? Well, the elevator size limits the tour to six people and the tour guide. Each tour is 45 minutes long, during which the interpreter will describe the equipment of the facility, what it was like to live there, and what World War III would have been like.
The Delta-09 Missile Silo
Looking down an 80-foot-deep silo at a 57-foot-tall nuclear missile is, for lack of a better word, crazy. The blast door of the silo has been partially opened and a glass ceiling placed on top which gives you the eerie view of the pastel green Minuteman II missile below. The Delta-09 missile was used as a training missile, so it doesn’t have any propellant or a nuclear warhead. A little fact to remember as you stare down into the silo: The Minuteman II’s warhead was sixty-six times more powerful than the atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima, Japan and killed 140,000 during World War II.
The Best Time Of Year To Visit
Wondering the best time of year to explore this historic site? Like many things in the area, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site sees the bulk of its visitation during the summer and early fall months. If you want to avoid the crowds and easily book the coveted Delta-01 tour, consider visiting during the late fall, winter, or early spring months.
You can learn more about the history of the Cold War on the Minuteman National Historic Site website, along with information about tours, hours of operation and more. Plan well in advance for your visit so you can take in all the fascinating history this site offers!