Understanding the Communities Around Ellsworth
Now that you’ve arrived at Ellsworth and your household goods are ready to be delivered, the next looming decision is where to live. While many appreciate the convenience of living on base, there is a lot to explore and enjoy in the communities just outside the gate. Here’s a quick rundown of the towns near base and what they have to offer, which might help you decide exactly where you want to land.
Box Elder is the closest, as it is located directly outside the base. It is currently one of the top three fastest growing cities in South Dakota, as it works to get ahead of the upcoming base expansion. With easy access to base, Rapid City, and the airport, Box Elder is a great location for those who want to live the quiet suburban lifestyle while staying convenient to local amenities. For now, employment opportunities and school ratings are not as high as in town, but expect those to increase as the town develops around the base.
Rapid City is the largest city in the region, and the second largest in the state of South Dakota. All of the amenities are here, from major national shopping and restaurant chains to a great spectrum of local restaurants, entertainment options, and a growing arts scene. Most employment opportunities for spouses or family members will be in town, as well. The younger crowd will find plenty of apartment options, as well as a lively downtown scene on the weekends.
The city is also home to an extensive amount of green space and parks, not to mention multiple organizations dedicated to educating your family about outdoor activities in the hills—which is not to be missed during your time here at Ellsworth. For sports fans, the Rapid City Rush, a mid-level pro hockey team, make their home here. South Dakota Mines is also downtown, and plays Division II football, basketball, and others. The downside to the city is a higher crime rate and lower school ratings, depending on the district.
Rapid Valley is technically a suburb of Rapid City, and the two are fairly hard to tell apart. What Rapid Valley offers that the city doesn’t is lower housing prices and lower crime. The trade-off is a slightly longer drive to amenities—although it is closer to base—and lower school ratings. As a suburb, Rapid Valley doesn’t have a downtown per se, but has a decent number of restaurants and services that allow for day-to-day convenience.
Black Hawk, Summerset, and Piedmont are smaller communities west of Rapid City on I-90, and offer a variety of options. Summerset leads the pack with school ratings, and all three earn top marks for low crime. They are removed from amenities in town, and you’ll have to travel through most of Rapid City to reach them, which can involve quite a bit of traffic depending on the time of day. Employment opportunities out here are limited outside the service or retail industry.
To the east of base is New Underwood, a small town that mostly caters to agricultural families. If you’re looking for a lot of land to roam on while you’re here, much of the community in this area has exactly that. In fact, most base members who live in New Underwood technically live in the country somewhere in between town and base. While cost of living and housing are affordable, the distance to amenities is greater, and schools aren’t ranked as high as closer to base.
There are plenty more options for places to live while stationed at Ellsworth, but a word of caution when choosing: winter weather can be no joke here. While the South Dakota Department of Transportation does an excellent job keeping roads clear of ice and snow, sometimes there is only so much they can do against the elements. Winter winds can be dangerous with even trace amounts of ice or snow on the roads, and can cause closures due to drifting or low visibility. Not to mention, during the summer tourist season, local highways can get congested quickly with sightseers and RVs. While not overtly dangerous, last second lane-changes and turns are common as people try to navigate roads they’re not used to. If choosing to move farther from base, weigh the pros and cons of the amenities or opportunities with the longer, possibly treacherous, commute.