I often heard about the rock mazes growing up in Rapid City. Until recently I had not taken the scenic venture up Nemo Road to see them for myself. The experience was well worth the effort. The Steamboat Rock picnic area is a picturesque one next to a babbling creek, a great place to grill some delicious food with friends or family.
The jaunt up to the rock mazes is an easy one, they seem to go on forever. Hours were spent traversing the crevasses and climbing up the sides for a better vantage point. Set in the edge of a cliff, the rock mazes resemble an enormous piece of granite that was dropped from a height and broken into several pieces, like a stone sidewalk without the cement in between.
Sadly, evidence of less conscientious visitors was abundant. Trees were seared in a large swath; the source of the damage pointing back to an illegal, poorly constructed campfire. Litter was predominant. Apparently someone also felt that the geological beauty of the boulders was lacking and decided to adorn many of the rock faces with spray paint. The whole spectacle rendered within me a dilemma: should I be sharing Black Hills locations like this with the world or should I keep my mouth shut?
After some consideration, I decided that the majority of people who want to know about these places are fellow outdoor enthusiasts. From now on I resolved to bring a grocery sack or garbage bag along on my hikes, and retrieve what others are willing to pack in but not out. The Black Hills are a resource of natural beauty, arguably the resource that drives our local economy. I'm willing to make a little extra effort to preserve this resource, not only for my fellow South Dakotans, but for future generations who also deserve to experience the sublime. The Black Hills have been around for millions of years, and will undoubtedly outlast the minority of litterbugs and vandals.
To visit the Rock Mazes, drive up Nemo Road (West Chicago Street in Rapid City), roughly 13 miles to the Steamboat Rock picnic area. There is a turnoff on the left before the sign. Park here or at the picnic area, and follow the path up to the rocks.
Photo, courtesy of Lindsay A. Rose.