Rockerville is a small
unincorporated community in
County in the Black Hills of the U.S. state of
Originally established as a mining camp, it
was named for the "rockers" which were used to separate placer gold
from stream gravel.
It was a
tourist town in the 1950s and 1960s, because of its key location on
US Highway 16 between Rapid City and Mount Rushmore National Memorial, with a variety of tourist
attractions, including a "Mellerdrammer" (Mellodrama) live theatre,
a "Ghosttown" of various buildings with tourist shops and small
amusements, "It's a Small World" Museum (featuring an 1880 Tiny
Town model and other miniature collections), a motel, campgrounds
and RV parks.
View of Rockerville, July 2006.
However, in the conversion of US Highway 16 to
four-lanes in the mid-1960s, the original townsite was placed
literally between the two separate roadways, as there was no way to
widen the original highway through the town without completely
destroying it. Despite the construction of at least three exits
into the town from both directions, the town virtually died because
travelers on their way to and from Mount Rushmore never saw the
town when whizzing past at 55 mph. Every business closed, and many
remain abandoned to this day, although the "Gaslight Saloon"
remains a local restaurant and attraction. This severe local
economic damage today is sometimes referred to in South Dakota as
"Rockerville Syndrome" and has had a significant bearing in
construction of new bypasses and highway improvements as recently
as 1998 and 2001, in and around such small towns as Hill
City and Corson.
Today, several subdivisions and rural residential areas have been
built around Rockerville, which also has a sawmill and other
commercial activities, leaving the small town rather like a
doughnut. It is located close enough to Rapid City,
Hill City, and Keystone to serve as a bedroom community, and its natural
beauty make it an attractive place to live.
commercial area has grown up on US Highway 16 approximately 1 mile
east, known as "East Rockerville" or "Rockerville Flats" with
various tourist-oriented businesses and more residential
To the west, on the old alignment of US Highway 16, now called
Silver Mountain Road, is the rural community of Silver Mountain,
including Storm Mountain Center, a United Methodist
Trail, a hiking trail following the alignment and remains of a
water flume built to provide water for those gold rockers in the
1880s, connects Rockerville, Storm Mountain, and Boulder Hills with
Lake, deeper in the Hills.
Also the west is
Beretta Gulch, US Forest Service land well-known to locals as a
popular shooting range, and the Keystone Wye, where US 16 and US
16A divide, and famous for what was once the world's largest timber
Off U.S. Route 16
, a mile and a half northeast of
Rockerville, is the Stratosphere Bowl, a large opening in the
narrow, middle valley of Spring Creek, made famous in the 1930s as
the launching point for two US Army/Smithsonian Institution balloon
launches sending men to the Stratosphere. The Strato Bowl is
located at .
Rockerville's only organized government is the Rockerville Fire
District, which protects the area. Otherwise, government services
are provided by Pennington County.
- "Stratosphere Bowl" History Quest