In Dr. Watson Parker’s book “Black Hills Ghost Towns”, this image of an unnamed church appeared. Sitting on the edge of a Badlands chasm, I thought I’d located it last year when I photographed St. Joseph’s Mission, on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Mom and I went back this spring to see if the angles from the old shot matched. They don’t. We then spent a couple of lovely hours driving around the Badlands, detoured by a road closure on the two-lane between Scenic and the White River Ranger station. We drove miles out of our way, over Red Shirt Table all the way to Kyle and back to Rapid City.
We went back a few days later, and tried to access another possible mission that I’ve only found on the 7.5 minute USGS quads. Five miles down a single track farm road on top of Bouquet Table, we were turned back again by high water over Cain Creek. This year has been especially wet in Western South Dakota. Lots of hail, thunderstorms, rain. The resulting muck in the Badlands clay is not a pretty sight when you’re stuck in it, so we turned around. On the way back, the clouds broke, and I got this wonderful shot looking northward toward the Badlands.
We did have a lovely outing in the Badlands. I got my Senior Interagency Access Pass for all the National Parks — an amazing value for $10, BTW! You can get ’em at any National Park entrance station, or by mail order for an extra $10. And we spoke to a ranger at the visitor center, who confirmed my guess that St. Barbara’s is likely the church in the 1958 photograph. Google satellite imagery is unclear as to whether the church is still standing. It appears as if it may have burned down.
I’m going to give it another shot this August, and see if I can find the church from the south, unless the river crossings have dried up. (Not likely). It will be a good adventure, nonetheless.