Boom City

Motorcycles at Devils TowerEvery 4th of July, a collection of simple plywood shacks jump to life on an Indian reservation to the North of Seattle. These shacks sell fireworks of all kinds, all of which are designed to go "boom". This collection of shacks has been called "Boom City". And, as you can imagine, this is not the place you would go to read a book, or listen to birds sing, take a picnic, or really do any other activity that you might do in an area like our National Parks.

If you agree with me, then consider this is a word of warning if your travel plans this week take you anywhere near the border between Wyoming and South Dakota. Today is the first day of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, SD. So what does that have to do with a Park visit? Take a look at this map. You'll see that Sturgis happens to be right in the middle of a few popular parks, including Devils Tower, Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave, and Badlands. The result is that a visit to these parks this week means you'll encounter a lot of rumblings from the teams of motorcycles visiting the parks at the same time.

There are so many bikers that visit during this time of year that Devils Tower allows only motorcycles to park in its upper lot. Everyone else has to take a park shuttle to get to the visitors center and tower trail. I've always wondered what all this low resonating, chopping noise does to the critters living in Prairie Dog Town (located right next to the park road). It can't be good. If scientists have found that the noise generated from snowmobiles harms the wildlife in Yellowstone, it probably isn't a great stretch to imagine the same harm is being done to these cute little critters -- and yes, I know that those of you who ride horseback in the mid-west hate prairie dogs and their holes which can trip everything up, but to a guy out West, watching those prairie dogs bounce and play and run-around is a cute thing, you'd have to have a heart of stone not to crack a smile at their antics.

It would be suicide to suggest that packs of motorcycles be limited at all in the Black Hills this time of year. I can only imagine what this group of riders does for the local economy. If choppers were not allowed in Devils Tower, then they probably wouldn't ride through Hulett, the closest thing to a gateway community for Devils Tower. The tiny town of Hulett wouldn't have the opportunity to sell these guys breakfast in the morning, beer at night, ice for their coolers, batteries for their cameras, or gas for their hogs. But, I think these questions should still be addressed: What, if any, impact does the Sturgis Bike Rally have on the Natural Soundscape of places like Devils Tower?; And what, if any, impact does the extra motorcycle traffic through the park have on the wildlife? If the point is to preserve and protect these things (soundscape and wildlife) for future generations, then it should be worth the time and effort to investigate the impact created specific to this time of year by the motorcycles traveling to the "Boom City" of Sturgis.