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The Original Badger Hole

South Dakota nearly lost our beloved poet's first Black Hills cabin

Badger Clark's original Black Hills cabin (shown here) has been rescued by the Badger Clark Memorial Society.


The Badger Hole is missing! The cabin home of the cowboy poet, Badger Clark, located in Custer State Park has been demolished! No, it has not been demolished, it has been moved. But where? And why? Rumors are flying about the former home of beloved cowboy poet, Badger Clark, and it's time to take the wraps off the mystery.

Most South Dakotans know about the state's first Poet Laureate, the charismatic cowboy known as Badger Clark (full name: Charles Badger Clark, Jr.). During the first half of the twentieth century he lived and worked in a cabin in Custer State Park, writing evocative Western poetry and speaking to countless graduates across the state and region. His cabin was known as the Badger Hole, and the park maintains it today just as he left it, for visitors and school children to visit during the summer season.

But there was another Badger Hole, a one-room cabin that Badger Clark lived in from 1924-1937 while building his permanent four room cabin nearby. Badger Clark did not build that little cabin and never actually owned it. After his tenure, it was moved, changed hands many times, was added on to, and eventually ended up in the hands of the Badger Clark Memorial Society, which used the wings for a caretaker's residence and storage, while returning the original central room to the way it looked when Badger Clark lived there.

In recent years the wings of the older cabin became unstable and the park added it to its list of surplus property slated to be torn down. This triggered a frantic effort to save the edifice — or at least the original central portion — as a piece of South Dakota history. After many months of negotiations, an agreement was reached between Custer State Park and the Badger Clark Memorial Society under which the park agreed to demolish the wings, if the society would move the main cabin out of the park.

The society set about finding a suitable location where the cabin could not only be preserved but serve an appropriate role. The park upheld their end of the bargain and prepared the cabin to move, but negotiations with various entities for the cabin's new home were inconclusive. So Society Vice President Paul Jensen of Wasta, arranged to have the cabin removed from the park without a definite place for it to go. Society member Dorothy Delicate of Custer offered her land as a temporary resting spot, but somehow it never got there.

Enter Linda Flounders, owner of the historic Newton Fork Ranch, located on Deerfield Road, 1/2 mile from Hill City's Main Street. Linda is slowly restoring the 18 acre property comprised of six full round log cabins built in 2000, a large picnic shelter plus her grandparents' 1912 home. Her grandmother was a prolific writer, albeit unpublished, and her uncle Paul Lippman, from whom she purchased the property, was a published writer and held several workshops on the property in the 1980s. Writing is obviously highly revered in her family. When Linda built the cabins at Newton Fork Ranch, it was with the intention of creating a writers retreat. As such, the cabins do not have telephones or television sets. Linda has placed the original Badger Hole on an undeveloped lower portion to the ranch property along the Mickelson Trail and incorporated it into her writers retreat.

Why all this fuss over a dilapidated old shack? Well, for one thing history was made there. Not only was it the home of South Dakota's first Poet Laureate for 13 years, but his first book of poetry on South Dakota subjects — Skylines and Wood Smoke — was written there. Badger Clark also wrote prose, including contributions to the South Dakota Writer's Project, a Depression-era compendium which was almost certainly written while residing in that one-room cabin. His letters to the editor were frequently printed in Hills papers, and his poetry was published in national magazines such as Scribner's, Outing, Arizona Highways, Sunset, the Pacific Monthly and the South Dakota Poetry Society's Pasque Petals, during this period.

The cabin is a part of South Dakota history. After a season of drift it has finally found a home.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Shebby Lee is a writer, Black Hills tour guide and member of the Badger Clark Memorial Society in Rapid City. For more information, contact the society at 343-4852. The society website is


06:51 pm - Fri, July 29 2016
Kenneth Hargens said:

Badger Clark was our only neighbor when I was growing up in Custer State Park. Our house was only about 100+ yards from Badger's house. The log portion of our residence is the first school house in the Black Hills. It was built in 1877 to serve the farmers, ranchers, loggers, and miners of the Galena Creek Valley and the school was known as the 'Galena Creek School'. The building measures exactly 16' x 20'. Most of the original mud chinking is still in place and the logs are solid. The interior walls of the log structure were covered with news papers pasted in place and muslin fabric covering that.

The historic building and site has been in continuous use/occupation by the Hargens family since about 1891 when Dr. C. W. Hargens, Hot Springs surgeon and physician, began using the cabin as a hunting and fishing lodge.

Holland Hargens, Dr. Hargens' son, assisted Badger Clark in building the 'Badger Hole'. Holland Hargens was a carpenter and stone mason and his work can be seen in the stone foundation and fireplace. All made with colorful local feldspar, quartz, and other pegmatites and hard rocks. Holland Hargens also built the very unique and marvelous fireplace at the old cabin adjacent to the formerr site of Warren-Lamb Logging Railroad complex about a mile south of the Galena Creek School in the Galena Creek Canyon.

Kenneth Hargens recalls that when he was a small child he would go over to 'Badgers Hill' to sled and Badger would see the young man out there and call him in for hot chocolate. As the boy sat on the couch before the fireplace Badger would recite to him his latest prose then ask the boy for his reaction. The reaction was always in the positive!

It is the intention of the Hargens; family to restore the Galena Creek School and to place the building on the National Historic Register.
01:32 pm - Sat, December 9 2017
David Morse said:
The winter of 1950-51 my dad worked for Custer State Park and was winter care-taker of the original Legion Lake Lodge. Before we moved into the Lodge, we stayed in a cabin the folks said was Badger Clark's. We were only there a short time but the buffalo across the road from time to time kept me cooped up inside. For a 6 year old, that was memorable. As I remember, the cabin we stayed in was more on the flat than the one shown here. Maybe his other one?
01:40 pm - Fri, February 2 2018
Kitty Maurer said:
We love visiting Custer State Park and visiting Badger's Hole. Badger's home and surroundings brought peace to our soul. We hope to return this year.

While visiting last year, we noticed the wonderful green out-house had deteriorated from the year past. Would you please consider putting a tin roof on the structure to help save it? After all, it was part of Badger's story. Like the old barns, once they are gone part of history is lost.
Thank you,
Kitty Maurer
09:35 pm - Mon, March 29 2021
Kenneth Hargens said:
As I get older I am seem to be more involved and concerned with Black Hills history. These feelings are probably a result of my experiences with my grandfather, Dr. C.W. Hargens (1866-1958) and my dad, Holland Hargens (1897-1972). When I was a kid growing up at the family's historic homesite within the confines of Custer State Park (CSP) I was enthralled with the experiences discussed by my dad and my grandfather. A few years ago I had printed in the Custer Chronicle some letters from my dad to my grandfather while my dad was in Europe during WWI. After the war he spent quite a little time in reflection at our home in CSP. He also worked, at odd times, for the Warren-Lamb Lumber Co. on the timber railroad which ran only a few feet past a log building which is known as the Galena Creek School. This log structure was later incorporated into our house as the living room and it still stands today. Yes, I have many memories of exploring in CSP and of the many things I discovered. I visit our property for maintenance often and I can never resist the temptation to climb rocks and visit caves and the evidence of the many old homesites near the Galena Creek School. I walk over to Badger's old cabin and sit on the porch and remember his early morning coughing spells when he would come out to clear his lungs while leaning over his porch railing. It all seems like such a short time ago,
Kenny Hargens
02:57 pm - Mon, April 5 2021
Anne Hargens said:
I am the daughter of Holland Hargens my dad passed away in February of 2020. Toward the end all dad talked about were his memories of South Dakota, the farm outside Chardron along with the characters he met through his father Holland, the fishing/hunting trips with his grandfather CW. I remember visiting the cabin once meeting my grandfather Holland Sr and seeing his cabin which was a hugely different environment from Portland, OR. Dad mentioned Badger several times along with all the other original personalities he met.
04:26 am - Tue, October 10 2023
Greg Tobias said:
My family owned this cabin from 1964 to 1989, when they traded it for another cabin near Blue Bell. I grew up visiting it over many summer weekends and the occasional week-long family vacation. In retrospect this sends like a bit of a challenge for a family of six with no running water or plumbing, but at the time an outhouse full of squirrels was just part of the adventure. We visited the Badger Hole regularly. I remember the ticking of the old clock inside, and the incredible size of Badger's boots lined up in his bedroom. It is a very worthwhile stop for anyone visiting Custer State Park.

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