A visit to Laura’s Living Prairie in De Smet, South Dakota offers guests a glance into one family’s experience as pioneers in the late 1800’s. Laura Ingalls Wilder offered a fresh perspective into life in a pioneering family through her nine children’s books. Her books were also made into a television series, and mini series, and a musical.
With Laura’s worldwide popularity today, many would be surprised to learn that publishers rejected her initial manuscript. Fortunately, Laura persisted in her efforts to have her experiences as a pioneer published. Today, over 60 million copies of her books have been sold in more than 100 countries.
The Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota is comprised of the land Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family homesteaded in accordance with the 1880 Homestead Act. Laura would have lived in De Smet from the age of 13 to 18.
The Ingalls Homestead offers visitors self-guided tours of Laura’s Living Prairie as well as interactive activities such as covered wagon rides and corn cob doll-making. There are several buildings to tour including a shanty fashioned after the one described by Laura in “Pioneer Girl: An Annotated Autobiography”, including the cottonwood trees encircling the family shanty.
There is also a sod house similar to those used by many homesteaders. Since it is built into the hillside, it was somewhat protected from the prairie wind.
Inside a sod house could be quite dark and damp.
There are also barns, carriage houses, and a church to view so long as guests are up for a walk through pathways lined with corn, wheat, or prairie grass.
A one room schoolhouse sits on the corner of Laura’s Living Prairie. The original Johnson School #20 was built in 1881, but it burned in a prairie fire. The school was rebuilt in 1889.
One of the early teachers at Johnson School #20 was Frank Forsburg. Laura Ingalls Wilder was Frank’s first grade teacher.
For those guests desiring to spend the night, there are several options for camping on the open prairie. Visitors can bring their own RV or tent, or they can stay in the bunkhouse.
There is even the option of sleeping in a covered wagon.
All of the lodging options share the restroom and shower facilities.
Regardless of your lodging choice, sunsets on the prairie are gorgeous.