About 30 miles north of Sturgis lies the tiny town of Newell, South Dakota: population 603. Another five miles up the road is a family ranch that spreads out over 50,000 acres and is home to the Spur Creek Saloon, a quaint little watering hole that bikers in the know view as a pilgrimage each year during the Sturgis rally. Rustic and real, the working ranch has cattle, sheep, horses, some longhorn cattle and even a few buffalo but the motorcycle fun kicks off with a rowdy biker rodeo that draws a wild crowd for a day in the dirt each August. The seasonal saloon is packed as cycle cowboys saddle up to do their rodeo thing and everyone else shows up to cheer them on. As soon as the Sturgis rally wraps up, the bar closes its doors but the rest of the year the ranch operates as a wedding venue.
Our trip out to visit the working ranch came on the last day of saloon operation as owner Becky Boylan served up ice-cold rounds for the crowds that bellied up to the bar to soak up the warm afternoon sun and the peaceful vibe that came with staring off into the endless horizon. The ranch sprawls out as far as the eye can see and well beyond, but nearby the small herd of buffalo and longhorns are a treat to watch. Longhorn cattle, known for their lean beef, have been a part of North American history since 1493 and the novelty of seeing the modern-day descendants grazing in the South Dakota prairie is sure to put a smile on your face.
The wedding facility consumes 3,000 of the ranch’s acreage and includes photo opportunities with the rare livestock while the barn makes for a perfect western-themed backdrop. The grounds include rustic cabins and bikers who like to get away from the rally craziness can rent a place at the ranch to call home during the early part of August. Rusted, ancient farm equipment and machines litter the property, adding to the cowboy flair, and folks are welcome to ramble around to take photos. For us, the downstairs card room and handmade table covered with cowhide were worth the visit as we wandered around sipping sweet tea and barley pop. We made friends with resident guard dog, Olive, a tiny 5-pound Doxie who skirts the perimeter of the bar avoiding steel-toed boots and the bikers who wear them. Becky shared that Olive can be vicious when necessary and is devoted to her husband Robert, though we tried hard to convince her that we were sure she’d make a great biker dog and teased about sticking the adorable gal in our saddlebags as we noticed the sign on the door. We were warned that, in the true cowboy way, the owners “Don’t call 911.”
The serenity of the scenic prairies beyond the city of Sturgis is peaceful and an afternoon spent at the Spur Creek Saloon on Highway 79 was well worth the trip to escape the chaos of the rally so be sure to add this destination to your route for the 2018 rally. You’ll find us cozied up in the rocking chairs, dreaming of being cowpokes.