12-Jun-2002 -- The quest for the last confluence in South Dakota started with attending an ArcView Version 3.2 workshop at Sinte Gleska University at their Lake Campus in Antelope, South Dakota on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. The training was provided by James Rattling Leaf, Sicangu Policy Institute, and the principal instructor was Joseph Kerski, geographer for the USGS, Denver. Toward the end of the training Joseph related the Degree Confluence Project to the class. His goal was to go to 43N 101W while providing the training session. But this confluence was visited on May 20, 2002 along with several others by Danny Strickland who has 38 confluences under his belt.
On June 6, we revisited 43N 101W. This inspired us to take a run at 43N 103W the following day. This site was so easy to get to it was a surprise to understand why no one had visited it before us. The inspiration of seeing all those zeros on those two days was my inspiration to take a run at the last confluence in South Dakota.
The beginning of the following week I started to look at 45N 104W.
The more I looked at the maps available on the project web site the more I wondered why no one took the dash for it. There was something telling me there had to be a reason why. First I called the Butte County Courthouse in Belle Fourche, SD. I talked with the Register of Deeds office. I explained what I was up to and Paula was a great help and cordially looked through their books to see who owned the SW 1/4 of Section 16, Township 12 North, Range 1 East in Butte County on the Black Hills Meridian. After several books the only reference she could find was a right-of-way for a pipeline granted by the Commissioner of School & Public Lands. She referred me to that Office in Pierre, SD. I called them the following morning, again explaining why I called for information. They also were helpful, confirmed the land status, and provided current lease information. This tract of land was currently leased by the Crago Hereford Ranch. They also provided an address and telephone number. If they had no problems with access neither did they. That next morning I called to see if I could access the confluence. After explaining again why I wanted to go to 45N 104W they had no problem with my visit, provided a simpler route to the site, and just requested that I close all the gates. As it turned out one of their good friends in Belle Fourche turned out to be my first cousin. It’s a small world. Once again I still haven’t figured out why no one has visited the site.
I had leave approved for Wednesday June 12. When I got up that morning it was raining lightly. I got on the internet to check doppler radar at Keloland.com. Clouds were starting to build over and to the north of the Black Hills. My heart was sinking. Since I had a 260 mile run to the site and not wanting to default on my promise to the land owners to track lightly, I anxiously checked the radar for a couple hours. From what I could see the site only got a light sprinkle if any rain at all. After dealing with a small crisis at work it was noon before I headed out, several hours after I intended to leave.
After only one rest stop break near Wasta, SD, we reached the Montana state line. Shortly thereafter we stopped and put our hands on three states at once, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.
A couple more miles into Montana to hang a right after the auto cattle guard (the road was dry but showed signs of a light sprinkle earlier in the day...isn’t technology great), turning back to the east down the road to just before you reach the buildings hang another right through the first gate, follow the trail to the next gate, continue down the trail until you cross a dam embankment (the larger of the two near the confluence on the aerial photo provided by the project), swing back west past the smaller second pond, followed the trail to about a hundred feet from the confluence, off the trail the last little bit and parked the truck. Once again a lot of zeros, 45.00000N 104.00000W (see Photo).
My only regret - this is one of the few times I used the view finder of my camera (I wanted to keep things on the same plain and I never viewed the shots until I got home and downloaded from the camera). North is fine,
east is way less than desired,
south is somewhat better,
west may pass. Editor's note: The east and west photos are not displayed here, owing to their poor quality.
Rae, Tisha, and Jasmine at Ground Zero (Note the trees to the right of the photo. These are on the embankment of the small dam and near the horizon to the left is the larger dam in the Project supplied aerial photo).