On Highway 14, about halfway between Wall and Philip, lies sleepy Cottonwood, South Dakota. We visited Cottonwood at the suggestion of our friend Maya Greywolf who had been momentarily captivated by these abandoned places while passing through on a roadtrip. We had little idea what to expect, but we were thrilled at the photo opportunities when we arrived.
Interstate 90 passes a few dozen miles to the south of Cottonwood, and travelers use that high speed corridor to access highly-photographed locations like Badlands National Park and the globally-famous Wall Drug, but in the northeastern corner of Jackson County where Cottonwood resides, tourist snaps are decidedly few and far between. We need no better reason to visit.
The sign on the highway outside Cottonwood says the population is 12. The 2010 census lists it as 9.
The church stands at the north end of Illinois Street, its bell-tower tweaked slightly with age. A vacant structure stands immediately to the south, next to one of the few inhabited homes in Cottonwood.
In 2014, a group of cyclists passed through Cottonwood and got beer at the local bar. We were in Cottonwood very early in the morning, so we’re not sure if the bar is still in operation.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media