Bennett County High Point Trip Report

Date: September 30, 2003
Author: Bob Packard

I drove from US 18 nine miles west of Martin, SD 3 miles north on the Allen Road (paved) then 9 miles west on gravel-dirt, then 4 miles north on same, then 3/10 miles west on dirt and grass track and parked.

Walked up to the least likely (north) area for Bennett in grass-pasture near unharvested sunflower field. Small bison herd nearby to the south. The contour is at 1,100 meters (3,609 feet) and the contour interval is 10 meters. Because of the shape of the land I don't see how this hillock can top half way to the next contour or 1,105 meters (3,625 feet). The contour area is higher on the north and south ends with a mild saddle between. On October 9th, I drove south 3 miles on a road 2 miles east of Batesland, first 2 miles dirt, next mile grassy track. Gates at 2, 2.5, 3 miles.

I drove another 1/2 mile south across a hay field and parked at (43° 5.015' N, 102° 3.661' W). I knew I was in for a non-trivial hike as I had seen no roads or tracks leading off east, west or south and I had decided not to try to seek out other approaches. I headed south and the terrain changed character abruptly. Very sandy (energy absorbing) hills covered with grasses, yucca type plants and tiny cacti, pieces of which would catch on my pant legs.

At about 43° 2.28' N I came to very substantial fencing, a many-strand barbed wire fence and about 2 feet inside that was a many-strand electric fence with very weak pulse. Rolled under the lowest strands of both and kept going south. Not too much farther the land exhibited long grassy valleys separated by hills, still sandy. Some areas had very tall coarse grass, exhausting to walk through.

It wasn't long before I realized that I was in a huge bison range. All the Bennett hp areas (except that north one, of course) and the routes connecting them are in this range. I would see perhaps 500 bison before the day was over in several herds from maybe 50 to 150 bison each. They were sometimes in my way. I would partially walk around them and partially approach them. When I got within their discomfort distance the herds would thunder off with the lead bull hanging back until he seemed satisfied that I was not a threat.

Anyway I got to the middle high area first with two contour areas. The large northwest one with hp at (43° 1.271' N, 102° 2.985' W) is definitely higher than the small southeast one. At the very top is a telephone pole, part of a line heading directly toward the set of buildings (looked abandoned to me) in section 19 to the southwest.

Next, I got to the southwest area with three contour areas. Very big bison herds hanging around the complex of lakes encountered on the way. I went to all three areas as they were very close in altitude. The northeast one at (43° 0.675' N, 102° 4.568' W) felt highest.

Next I got to the southeast area with two contour intervals. The north one at (43° 0.144' N, 102° 1.166' W) is definitely higher.

Lastly it was northwest and north back to my camper, encountering more herds on the way. Total time was 8 hours, and 16 miles. Very difficult to estimate elevation gain, but I don't see how it could be less than 1000 feet. The whole hike was up and down, up and down.

While my GPS holds steady with latitude and longitude it fluctuates as much as 20 feet with regard to altitude. I was getting essentially the same readings at each of the three positions given above. Thus I can't pick one as the highest or rule out one. On the other hand I was getting readings around 15 feet higher than at the northern area I had done the day before. I note that the contours for the southern areas are 1,105 meters (3,625 feet) with contour intervals of 5 meters. Figuring that at least some of these areas reach at least half way to the next contour one gets around 1,108 meters (3,635 feet). Thus there is a very high probability that that northern area is not the hp of Bennett.

On this hike I came across no roads, only one or two faint tracks in the grass. I'm sure the locals who look after the bison know how to get into the area with motorized vehicles, knowledge unknown to me at this point.