For 125 years Homestake, the biggest and most technically advanced gold mine in American history, mined and milled the precious metal at Lead. Homestake made South Dakota the number one gold producing state for most of the 20th century. It cut a shaft nearly two miles deep, to a depth where subterranean heat challenged miners who dropped down there daily. They couldn't see hell, they said, but could feel it. Homestake ceased mining in 2001 and today the site is one of the world's foremost underground science labs, primarily researching neutrinos. Two Main Street museums in Lead interpret Homestake's history and legacy. The spanking new Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center features one of the region's best window views -- and that's saying a lot in the Black Hills. The view is into the depths of the Open Cut, a massive surface mine that was a Homestake component. Just up the street you'll find the Black Hills Mining Museum, very much a proud community project when developed a few years ago. Miners contributed their technical expertise and, in some cases, their own artifacts to make the gold mining experience come alive in a museum setting. The building's lower level has visitors feeling like they're underground.
Paul writes about the Black Hills for in-flight airline publications, academic magazines, South Dakota Magazine, public TV, newspapers and websites. He is the author of five books, all Black Hills themed. He lives in the Black Hills. He's obviously no Renaissance Man with varied interests, but if the Black Hills are your thing, he's your guy.