21 miles outside of Belle Fourche, the geographical center of the nation is marked by a makeshift sign in a farmer’s pasture. During the beginning of the twentieth century, the geographical center bounced around the midwest and was heavily disputed. When Alaska joined the union in 1959, the center moved from Lebanon, Kansas to another spot in Butte County. It was only after Hawaii was awarded statehood that the center moved to its current spot in Belle Fourche. Lebanon, not wanting to give up its claim to fame, now calls itself the “Geographical Center of the 48 Contiguous U.S. States.”
Belle Fourche now calls itself the “Center of the Nation” and has built a monument to this feat, but this is more of a convenience for tourists who don’t want to venture into the sticks to see the actual center, which is marked by a hand-written sign. The Tri-State Museum in Belle Fourche includes exhibits about the town’s history and the Center of the Nation Visitor Center.
To find the actual center of the nation, start at the junction of US 85 and US 212 and continue north for 13 miles. Take a left onto Harding County Road and after about 8 miles, there will be the sign on the right side of the road marking the center of the nation.