Creston Dinosaur – Creston, South Dakota - Atlas Obscura

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Creston Dinosaur

Creston, South Dakota

A relic of roadside lore and perhaps the first of its kind in North America.  

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Thirty miles southeast of Rapid City, South Dakota, in a large field bordering State Highway 44, stands what must be the world’s loneliest dinosaur. Empty fields surround the enormous concrete Brontosaurus (or, more aptly, Apatosaurus). It’s kept company by nothing more than a few nearby cows, rattlesnakes, and the occasional motor vehicle traveling the highway.

The Creston Dinosaur has seen better days. Braces hold up its neck and abdomen, and a large vertical crack is visible near its shoulders. Its green paint is worn and faded, and scrubby weeds grow almost to its knees. Created to attract tourists, it is now a sad, aging landmark on a lightly traveled highway. Constructed in 1933, the Creston Dinosaur is believed to be the first roadside dinosaur attraction in North America. It is even speculated that sculptor Emmett Sullivan got the idea for his famous Rapid City Dinosaur Park from this solitary creation.

Creston was a tiny train stop on the Milwaukee Railroad. The owners of the Creston General Store thought that a “life-size” dinosaur might entice rail and highway travelers to their establishment. The sauropod was designed and built by Creston resident and handyman Old Ike Murphy. Composed of concrete over an armature of wood and scrap metal, including railroad ties, the dinosaur measures an impressive 60 feet long and 20 feet tall.

Eventually, progress bypassed Creston with the creation of U.S. Interstate 90. By 1980, it had become a ghost town; its landmark dinosaur was in a state of serious disrepair. The statue’s concrete was cracked and crumbling, its tail broken, and graffiti defaced its body. In 1998, a group of civil engineering students from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology came to the Dinosaur’s rescue. Over several months, the students performed a complete structural and cosmetic renovation, including rebuilding the statue’s neck and backbone, reinforcing its legs, replacing its foundation, and applying new 1-inch-thick concrete skin to its body.

Their hundreds of hours of volunteer work culminated with the application of fresh coats of green and white paint. A small plaque left at the site dedicates the Dinosaur’s restoration to “the memory of Creston, South Dakota.”

Time and weather are again showing effects on the Creston Dinosaur. Yet, it continues to hold a silent vigil over its empty field. Although the area is fenced, there is a small pull-off from where the dinosaur can be viewed and photographed.

Know Before You Go

30.5 miles east of Rapid City on State Highway 44. The dinosaur's field is on the north side of the highway between Rapid City and Scenic.

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