Ellsworth Air Force Base – South Dakota


Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB) is a United States Air Force base located about 10 miles northeast of Rapid City, South Dakota, just north of the town of Box Elder.

The host unit at Ellsworth is the 28th Bomb Wing (28 BW). Assigned to the Global Strike Command’s Eighth Air Force, the 28 BW is one of the Air Force’s two B-1B Lancer wings, along with the 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess AFB, Texas.

Ellsworth AFB has a population of about 8,000 military members, family members and civilian employees. Rapid City itself has a population of just more than 75,258.

Left: B-1B Lancer assigned to the 37th Bomb Squadron

We arrived at Ellsworth about 2pm on Friday August 27th. Due to our length we went through the Commercial Gate and had no problems. They are checking everyone to see if they have a DOD ID card. The RV Park is very nice. One section of three paved cul-de-sac’s (back-in), one section of Pull through’s, gavel drive, concrete pads, and one section for overflow with electric only. We are in site #3, a back-in with plenty of space. As you can see it is a very nice RV Park.

The speed limit on SD interstates is 80mph (we drive 65-70 pulling the camper). Its not a problem, however, except when folks go 65-70-75; you come up on them fast. The secondary roads have 65 and sometimes 70mph limits and some roads were not built for these speeds, just have to be careful.

Our solar system is doing great. We run down the road with it on mainly powering our refrigerator and a few smaller things. Then when we get to a campsite we have the panels charge the batteries, however, we still need shore power to run both air conditioners long term. Our solar would run one AC for about 3 hours but we normally don’t do that as that would run the batteries down to 0.

When I first planned our route using RV Trip Wizzard I wondered if staying somewhere two to three days would be enough but it has proven to work well. In fact, three days sometimes feels like a week and a week feels like a month; I guess because we are usually doing something most days. We rarely stay only one night. After driving 350 miles at a time with 12,000lbs behind you a break is welcomed. Besides, where do we have to go in such a hurry?

Saturday evening saw some 30-40 mph winds coming from the North. We have three slide-out’s with fabric toppers on top to to keep any debree out and the toppers have a spring in them to keep the fabric tight. However, the one over the living room it is not as strong as the other two so it was bellowing and flapping in the wind. I had some beach balls that I bought to help with water run off during rain that I shoved underneath and then a milk crate and some wood to keep them there. It worked for about 10 min then the wind blew it all out, beach balls, milk crate and wood, everything went flying, so we brought in that slide until the wind subsided. I recovered the milk crate and the wood but I think the beach balls headed to Texas.

We watched Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday loose, again. This year was to be a turning point for the Cornhuskers but it looks like the same ol movie as last year. Not good. Then we had dinner at Outback Steakhouse with a colleague of mine from a past employer. He just happened to be in Rapid City on a job. It was great to see Mark.

Sunday morning was reserved for laundry (free at the campground). Then just before lunch we headed to the Bad Lands National Park. We took Interstate 90 East to Wall South Dakota and went South on the 240 loop. Very cool. The striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Ancient horses and rhinos once roamed there; we saw an in-person horse fossil being exhumed at the visitors center. The park’s 244,000 acres protect an expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets live today and the rock formations (we saw buffalo, prairie dogs, and sheep). The prairie dogs don’t interest me much (I look at them different than most I guess). When I was in collage I use to take my Remington 700 22-250 and shoot them from the road. Farmers hated them digging up their fields. Got back to the camper around 5pm. Click here for Bad Lands Photos.

I went for a walk with the dog early that morning and as I left our campsite I saw one, underneath a car on the other side of our loop. I stopped and looked around to see if anyone saw me, no one else was up that I could see. So I went and grabbed it, then took my 1/2″ pocket knife and knifed it dead, real dead quickly – it made no sound, stuffed it in my cargo pocket and walked away as if nothing happened. It now appears only five beach balls made it to Texas.

On Monday we went to the Custer State Park, beautiful place and the oldest State Park in South Dakota. The park is full of ponderosa pines, spruce, big burch & aspen trees, rolling hills, “The Needles” (needlelike granite formations), and an abundance of wildlife in their natural habitat, although heavily managed. We saw all kinds of animals to include Buffalo, Pron Horns, Prairie Dogs, Wild Donkeys, and Big Horn Sheep. We had lunch at the Legion Lodge and visited Legion Lake. When we got back we were tired and took a nap. We seem to take a lot of naps, more than we used to. Click here to see the photos.

Ellsworth is home to the B1 Bomber. They are huge, loud, and fast. One came over our campground Tuesday… just showing off I think.

I was riding my electric bike around the base Tuesday morning when I can upon a drainage ditch north of the campground… and there was one, one of the five remaining… looking at me with its one evil eye… cussing me out… yea, a beach ball, still mostly inflated. I couldn’t believe it, one had made it alive and how it got north was anyone’s guess but it was surviving, out for revenge, looking at me… I’m sure it knew I knifed one of its own already… I got the heck out of there before it decided to head my way and bounce off my face knocking me to the ground. I did not go outside the camper the rest of the day.

On Wednesday (9/1/2021) we went to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse monuments; Crazy Horse is about 30 miles West of Mount Rushmore in the stunning Black Hills. The sky was overcast and every once in a while we felt some rain but there still was a lot of folks at each.

The Mount Rushmore majestic figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, surrounded by the beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota can make one emotional about our Country. I wonder what these four men would think about the USA today? Mount Rushmore was completed in 1941 under the direction of Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln. Click here for Mount Rushmore photos.

It is interesting that the Crazy Horse Monument turned down millions of dollars in Government funding… they did not (and still do not) want any Government control whatsoever (its on private land)… even if it meant a much longer completion time. Wonder where that came from? The Ziolkowski family (Polish-American designer and sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski was the original designer and sculptor) are still running things yet it has a long way to go. Click here for Crazy Horse photos.

We took the day off Thursday for some rest and to catch up on things. Friday we visited Wall Drug store in Wall SD and visited the Minute Man Missile Museum.

The Missile museum is very cool. There were at one point 1,000 missiles buried in silos in the Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming area. The SMART treaty saw the dismantling of both the US and Russia warheads. However, we still have 450 active today with 1.5 Kiloton Nuclear warheads each. For every 10 missiles there is a command bunker that is buried 60 feet below the surface. They are maned by personnel out of Ellsworth AFB. The missiles are a deterrent but both sides know that is one launches that that is the end of the Earth as we know it because the other side will do the same. There were close to 12 incidents where the launch just about happened, all due to an error. One was on the Russia side. Their equipment told them we had launched five missiles from one area to a single target in Russia. The man in charge did not think that correct, why only five and why to a single target. Against all policy and procedures he did not launch his. It ruined his career abut on a hunch he saved the world. Touchy stuff. Click here to see photos.

Wall Drug store is just a tourist trap but if you are in the area might as well go, get some souvenirs and pay $35 for two burgers & fries. Here is a video if you want to learn more.

Then on Saturday we visited the South Dakota Aviation Museum. Nothing like the museum in Dayton Ohio but still nice. Photos here.

Sunday and Monday were rest days, just did some cleaning and hanged out at the camper.

Tuesday we left for Yankton SD, a 377 mile drive. Heading to a Corp of Engineers (COE) park… more to come.