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Sunday July 15th 2018

Dances With Wolves | 1990

Dances With Wolves filming location: Spearfish Canyon
Dances With Wolves location: the winter camp: Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota | Photograph: Dose Creative /iStockphoto

‘Kevin’s Gate’ jeered the cynics during this first directorial effort by Kevin Costner, but he got the last laugh with a Best Picture Oscar.

The Western epic, and effective tear-jerker, was filmed on location in South Dakota, mainly near the Triple U Standing Butte Ranch, which became the Triple U Buffalo Ranch, 26314 Tatanka Road in Stanley County outside Pierre, on Route 14 at the Missouri River, central South Dakota, where 3,500 buffalo constitute the world’s largest privately-owned herd. In 2015, the ranch was bought by media mogul Ted Turner.

In fact, it was the herd which dictated the location, and the location in turn necessitated changing the subjects of the story from the Comanche of Oklahoma and Texas – as in Michael Blake’s original novel – to the Sioux.

The ‘Tennessee’ civil war battle was also filmed outside Pierre. The winter camp is Spearfish Canyon outside Rapid City, Route 90 in southwest South Dakota. Located in the northern portion of the Black Hills National Forest, Spearfish Canyon – though less than a mile wide – runs for 20 miles along a scenic State and National Scenic Byway. Native Americans were recruited as extras from the Rosebud, Pine Ridge and Eagle Butte Reservations.

Lieutenant John Dunbar (Costner) sets out from ‘Fort Hays, Kansas’, about 100 miles west of Salina on I-70. A purpose-built set was constructed about four miles south of Rapid City, and the buildings have since been re-sited as the Dances With Wolves Film Set tourist attraction. The South Dakota Film Museum, highlighting over 50 movies that were produced in the State, is located just inside the Headquarters building of the Dances With Wolves Film Set. The museum is free, and open to the public from mid-May to mid-October.

The wagon ride from ‘Fort Hayes’ to ‘Fort Sedgewick’ was filmed in the Sage Creek Wilderness Area, south of Wall in the Badlands National Park, while a Second Unit shot the spectacular scenery of Jackson, Wyoming.