In 2019, we traveled 8500 miles around the USA in our travel trailer. We saw a lot of amazing places, including six national parks, but to get from one place to the next involved a considerable amount of time in the car. There are only so many books and snacks you can consume in a day! I found that one great way to break up those long stretches of a road trip is with the Atlas Obscura website. Simply allow it to access your location and it will pull up a variety of points of interest in your area, many of which are lesser-known, unusual and rather obscure (as the name suggests…). You can find all sorts of wonderful gems along the way, and the Porter Sculpture Park was one of them for us.
We were crossing South Dakota headed west toward the Badlands when I checked Atlas Obscura and read about this sculpture park right along the I-90 freeway we were traveling. It literally overlooks the freeway, and you can see (but not fully appreciate) some of the larger sculptures from the freeway, so it was certainly not out of our way. It sounded like an ideal place for us to stop and stretch our legs, get some fresh air and admire some unique and very large pieces of art. It did not disappoint!
We were pulling our 33′ travel trailer but we made it along the short winding dirt road just fine and the artist, Wayne Porter, who happened to be there, helped direct us to a spot where we could park in the grass. We chatted with him a bit and he told us a few things to watch for along the journey, including a couple of birds who would vigorously protect a particular sculpture like they owned it. Then we set off for a little walk among the 50+ large sculptures, reading the poems that are also posted along the way.
To share with you a glimpse of some of these works, I narrowed it down to just 18 of my favorite photos from our walk (plus I snuck in one of our travel trailer) for this slideshow and that was no easy task. From the whimsical to the bizarre, the huge pieces to the small details, the fun to the frightening, there was a lot to see!
I was interested to learn that not only has the artist never taken an art class, he also claims to be terrible at math and drawing! It seems he creates his art based primarily on instinct. Given that some of his works are multiple stories high and several tons in weight, that is an amazing feat in my book! He spent a lot of time in his dad’s blacksmith’s shop as a kid and he clearly has a lot of natural talent. Read about him here.
Granted, if truth be told, not all of us were equally impressed… one teen in particular apparently hadn’t developed an appreciation for this sort of art just yet. Or maybe said teen just wasn’t in the mood to walk at that moment. But the rest of us were all delighted by this unexpected roadside experience! And we can confirm that those birds will indeed dive bomb anyone who approaches their beloved dragon!
Have you taken any fun and unexpected excursions thanks to Atlas Obscura? Please share in the comments as I’d love to hear about them!