History & Facts

Rapid City, named for the limestone spring stream that passes through the city, was founded in 1876 by a group of disheartened prospectors that had come to the Black Hills in search of gold. John Brennan and Samuel Scott, along with a small party of men, laid out the site of the present-day Rapid City. They designated six blocks in the center of the site to be the business district and appointed committees to convince prospective merchants and their families to locate in the new settlement. Throughout the years, Rapid City has grown to be South Dakota’s second-largest city.

The economic base in Rapid City remains fundamentally the same as it was in the 1800s. Since its beginning, Rapid City has been a center for commerce, culture, transportation and education. Rapid City enjoys a diverse economy that includes agriculture, forestry, government, tourism, healthcare, manufacturing and an extremely strong service sector. 

To keep up to date with what is going on in Rapid City, check out the local podcast Amplify Rapid City.

  • Rapid City is the county seat of Pennington County.
  • The latitude of Rapid City is 44.080N. The longitude is -103.23W. The geographic center of the United States is located about 60 miles northwest near the town of Belle Fourche. 
  • Rapid City is the banana belt of South Dakota. It gets less snow than Denver,  more sun than Miami and Honolulu, and is warmer than Minneapolis.  The average temperature May to October is 73 degrees; November  to April, it’s 42 degrees
  • Rapid City is in the Mountain Standard time zone and its elevation is 3,241 feet above sea level.
  • The population of Rapid City is just over 70,000 with a metropolitan population of 138,738. It’s the second-largest city in South Dakota
  • On June 9, 1972, heavy rains caused massive flooding of Rapid Creek creating a flash flood that killed more than 250 people and created millions of dollars in property damage.
  • In 2011, Rapid City was named the Most Patriotic Small Town in the United States during the “Best of the Road” contest sponsored by Rand McNally. 
  • Rapid City is known as The City of Presidents,  a designation earned both by its proximity to Mount Rushmore and the ambitious public art project comprised of 43 life-size bronze presidential statues on street corners throughout downtown.
  • Dinosaur Park was an idea conceived by the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce to capitalize on tourists coming to the Black Hills to see Mount Rushmore during the 1930s. The Works Progress Administration built five dinos out of iron pipe, wire mesh and concrete. Two additional dinosaurs were added a short time later. The park is located near a spot where real dinosaur tracks were found.