Technology and social media have turned little-known natural spots in South Dakota into not-so-secret tourist destinations, much to the dismay of some locals.
The Rapid City Journal reports that one such spot includes a natural swimming hole known as Devils Bathtub, where user-created footpaths lead to a tributary that’s sometimes clogged with people.
Wyoming resident George Dunlap said he has had difficulty driving through all the parked vehicles to reach his cabin for the past several years. He has also seen people dumping garbage into the creek.
“It’s an unfortunate deal that so many people have found out about it,” Dunlap said. “Now it’s not hidden. It’s not anything right now except a mess.”
Other public sites in the Black Hills that have seen a rise in popularity from social media include Poet’s Table, a high granite alcove in Custer State Park; Hippie Hole, a natural swimming hole near Rockerville; and the Rock Maze, a labyrinthine cluster of rock formations in the Black Hills National Forest.
The management of such sites has come under scrutiny. With no infrastructure at any of the sites to control the flow of visitors, the increased visitation has caused congestion and public safety concerns.
Environmental damage also occurs — sometimes by accident, and sometimes by vandalism. Both Hippie Hole and the Rock Maze have been victims of graffiti.
The issues are causing some land managers to switch from loosely permissive oversight of the areas to aggressive intervention.
No-parking signs recently were installed along a highway curve near the gravel road that leads to Devils Bathtub’s unofficial trailhead. Last week Custer State Park officials removed in-ground fire pits and a shelter that were constructed by Poet’s Table visitors.
“We can either do nothing and let the damage occur, or we can manage it,” said Jim Hagen, secretary of the state Department of Tourism. “And I think the responsible thing to do is to manage it the best that we can.”