Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway Tunnel Naming

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway Tunnel Naming

The Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway Tunnel Naming Group was established to propose names for tunnels along the byway. The request to name the tunnels originally came from emergency responders who felt tunnel names would aid the traveling public when requesting assistance.

Map of tunnel locations

On S.D. Highway 87, the names being proposed for the Needles Highway tunnels came from strong geographic features immediately adjacent to each of the tunnels. These names are currently commonly used names when describing the tunnels: (scroll down for photos)

S.D. 87 MRM 66.85 - Iron Creek Tunnel: Iron Creek runs directly adjacent to the rock formation the tunnel was created. Although no evidence was found to officially name the tunnel, photographic evidence, from what is believed to be the 1950's, of a sign showing "Iron Creek Tunnel" was found.

S.D. 87 MRM 72.00 - Needles Eye Tunnel: Although no evidence was found to officially name the tunnel, the tunnel has historically been referred to as the "Needles Eye Tunnel" due to its immediate proximity to the well know Needles Eye landmark. The Needle's Eye is one of the most memorable granite needles along the drive, with its signature 'eye' formed by countless years of rain, ice and wind.

S.D. 87 MRM 74.65 - Hood Tunnel: The tunnel is believed to be officially named and has been historically known as the "Hood Tunnel". Although no definitive information was found, it is believed that the Hood Tunnel is named after the rock formation for which it is carved.

The names for the tunnels on U.S. Highway 16A, Iron Mountain Road, were chosen to recognize those individuals that most aided Peter Norbeck in the design and construction of the route. These three gentlemen made significant contributions while working directly with Peter Norbeck on the vision, design and completion of the route:

U.S. 16A MRM 50.49 - Scovel Johnson Tunnel: Deemed "impossible" to construct by its critics, Scovel Johnson's contribution to the Scenic Byway is largely for his construction of the Needles Highway. Peter Norbeck asked Johnson if he thought he could construct the road. Johnson's oft-quoted reply was, "If you can furnish me enough dynamite, I can." Johnson also made preliminary surveys for the Iron Mountain Road, and contributed to the layout of the Sylvan Lake area.

U.S. 16A MRM 53.00 - C.C. Gideon Tunnel: Cecil C. Gideon is honored as one of South Dakota's Great Faces because of the major landmarks he left in South Dakota. Gideon designed and built many local structures in the Black Hills. The most notable include the Custer State Park Game Lodge and the famous pigtail bridges on Iron Mountain Road.

An architect from Minnesota recommended Gideon to the South Dakota State Game and Fish, which was looking for someone to design a lodge primarily for the use of members in the Black Hills. In 1918, Gideon took a train from Minnesota to Rapid City to meet Peter Norbeck. The two quickly developed a life-long friendship.

Building the State Game Lodge was Gideon's first major accomplishment in the Black Hills. The location of the State Game Lodge was also the site of a sawmill. All of the wood was specially cut and prepared for the lodge. The lodge opened for business in 1921.

Together, Norbeck and Gideon mapped out Iron Mountain Road. Gideon's pigtail bridge design was critical to the construction of the road. These bridges were unique in design because they could safely accommodate sudden elevation changes while complimenting the natural beauty of the Black Hills. The pigtail bridges also forced travelers to drive slowly and take in the scenery of the Black Hills. This was precisely Norbeck and Gideon's vision for the highway.

U.S. 16A MRM 53.65 - Doane Robinson Tunnel: Though Gutzon Borglum was its creator, Doane Robinson was the man who first conceived the idea of Mount Rushmore. Robinson introduced a bill into the state legislature to authorize carving a mountain in Custer State Park and asking for funds to begin surveying the site. The funds were refused, but permission was granted.

Robinson met Borglum on the artist's first visit to South Dakota in 1924. On his second visit in 1925, the sculptor announced that he would not carve the Needles, but would find an appropriate mountain instead. Since the chosen sight was just north of the Park, the road to Mt. Rushmore had to be completed. It was part of the Iron Mountain Road design to enhance the Mt. Rushmore project with the view of the carving through tunnels on the road.

After Borglum decided on Rushmore, Robinson, then 69 years old, joined a party in scaling the mountain. From that moment, Robinson became the de facto local manager of the project and he scrambled, along with Senator Peter Norbeck, to facilitate and appease the efforts and demands of Borglum.

The final tunnel is located on the east side of Keystone on U.S. Highway 16A, this three-lane tunnel lies in the middle of one of the Black Hills most historic mining areas. Gold, silver, tin, copper and beryllium were just a few of the many minerals mined in the Keystone area. This is the reason the group is recommending the name:

U.S. 16A MRM 57.57 - Miner's Gateway Tunnel: The final tunnel is located on the east side of Keystone on US16A, this three-lane tunnel lies in the middle of one of the Black Hills most historic mining areas. Gold, silver, tin, copper, and beryllium were only a few of the many minerals mined in the Keystone area. That's why group is recommending the name, Miner's Gateway Tunnel.

This notification is intended to seek public comment on proposed names for the tunnels. Written comments in support or opposition to the proposed names for the tunnels should be submitted no later than March 17, 2015, to Rich Zacher.

Following the comment period, the group will send its final recommendations to the South Dakota Transportation Commission for consideration and final approval.

Please send comments via mail or email to:

SD Department of Transportation
ATTN: Rich Zacher
PO Box 431
Custer, SD 57730
Email: rich.zacher@state.sd.us

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway Tunnel Naming Group:

  • Marilyn Oaks Historian, Grand daughter of Cecil Clyde Gideon, Buffalo Rock Lodge, US16A
  • Sam Brannan Author, Engineer, Landowner Rushmore LLC, US16A
  • Jayme Severyn Building Engineer, Custer State Park Roads
  • June Hansen Chairperson, South Dakota Board of Geographic Names
  • Sandra McLain Historian, President of Keystone Area Historical Society, Big Thunder Gold Mine, Keystone SD
  • Dave Ressler Custer Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director
  • Bruce Weisman Integrated Resource Program Manager, Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, National Park Service
  • Stephen Keegan Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway Coordinator, Landscape Archetic, Black Hills National Forest
  • Kevin Karley Captain South Dakota Highway Patrol, Rapid City District
  • John Culberson Custer Ambulance Service, Emergency Responder, Motorcyclist
  • Richard Zacher South Dakota Department of Transportation, Custer Area Engineer
  • Les Nuckles Historian, Black Hills History
    Contributing Members
  • Darrell and Christy Caldwell Spokane Creek Resort, Cabin and Campground, US16A
  • Paul Horsted, Author, Photographer
  • Ken Stewart Archives Research Administrator, State Archives/S.D.State Historical Society

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