Ag, Mining, Manufacturing and More
Belle Fourche, on the banks of the Belle Fourche River at the northern edge of the Black Hills, is one of the most economically diverse communities in the Rushmore Region.
Agriculture – farming, cattle and sheep – remain the community's backbone. The Belle Fourche Livestock Exchange, the only live cattle market in the Black Hills, has been serving the local agriculture community since 1935. East of Belle Fourche is one of western South Dakota's largest crop farming regions, due in part to the Belle Fourche Irrigation District. More than 57,000 acres of land are irrigated with water from the Belle Fourche River.
Rich deposits of bentonite just west of the city have supported a key industry in Belle Fourche and nearby Colony, Wyo., for decades. Bentonite is a rich, absorbent clay, usually the residue of ancient volcanic ash, that is used in everything from cosmetics, cat litter and wine clarifiers to oilfield lubricants, steel castings and building foundations.
Meanwhile, Belle Fourche's location just down U.S. Highway 85 from the booming oilfields of the Williston Basin in North Dakota has created new opportunities for the city. Belle Fourche has been aggressively courting oil-and-gas related firms such as Permian Tank, Pipeline Plastics and Black Hills Fiberglass.
The city invested $4.5 million in a new Industrial Rail Park on the north edge of the city. Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern Railroad, a short line owned by Genesee & Wyoming Inc., provides freight rail service to the region. The bentonite plants of Belle Fourche account for about a fourth of its traffic.
Orman Dam, also known as the Belle Fourche Reservoir, is part of the Belle Fourche Irrigation District. It's also one of the largest recreation lakes in the region. People from throughout the Black Hills come to the 8,000-acre reservoir for fishing, swimming, boating and camping.
In 2014, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard named Belle Fourche the Small Community of the year, in part for its economic development efforts.