Belle Fourche, South Dakota, sits out on the prairie and serves as a gateway to the Northern Black Hills. French explorers named Belle Fourche “beautiful fork” when the area was owned by France for the confluence of what are now known as the Belle Fourche and Redwater Rivers and the Hay Creek.
During and after the gold rush of 1876, farmers and ranchers alike settled in the fertile valleys, growing food for the miners and their work animals. At the same time, the open plains for hundreds of miles in all directions were being filled by huge herds of Texas and Kansas cattle.
After winning a competition with the nearby township of Minnesela over the railroad that goes through Belle Fourche, the town went on to win the county seat of Butte County in the election of 1894.
Still today, Belle Fourche serves a large trade area of ranches and farms. The wool, cattle, and bentonite industries have been important to the growth of Belle Fourche.
In 1959, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey officially designated a point 20 miles north of Belle Fourche as the geographic center of the United States. It is the center of the nation because the admission of Alaska and Hawaii to the United States moved the location of the official center of the nation. Lebanon, Kansas, claims the title for the 48 contiguous states. The population of Belle Fourche was 5,594 at the 2010 census.