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Oldest Bar in South Dakota: Buffalo Bodega Complex, Deadwood

The Old Buffalo Bar in Deadwood

The Buffalo Bar portion of the Buffalo-Bodega Complex. This is the oldest bar in South Dakota.

The Buffalo Bodega Gaming Complex houses South Dakota’s oldest bar, which was established back in June 1877 in Deadwood.

At the time, there were 17 other saloons in Deadwood itself. But numerous fires and other happenings have resulted in the Buffalo Bodega being the oldest one left standing.

The Buffalo Bodega is called a complex for a good reason: it’s actually a merger of two old bars from back in the day: the Buffalo Bar and the Bodega Bar. 

The Buffalo Bar is the older of the two and was founded by Mike Russell in 1877. He named it after his good friend, the famous Buffalo Bill Cody.

Cody was such a close friend that he actually sent Russell a full-sized taxidermied buffalo that was in the Buffalo Bar in the early days. Unfortunately, that buffalo has long since been removed.

The structure is historical but the trappings are modern.

The fact that Deadwood had 18 saloons in 1877 speaks to the fact that it was pretty lively back in the day.

Colonel George Custer led an expedition into the Black Hills just three years prior in 1874 and discovered that there was gold in the area. In no time, miners and entrepreneurs swarmed the territory despite an 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie that had given control of the land to the Lakota people. 

Settlers founded a township along the snaking Whitewood Creek and within a couple of years, Deadwood had grown to a population of over 5,000 people.

The operators of the Buffalo Bar are kind enough to provide a short history of the bar to patrons.

And because many of those people were prospectors who desired to drink, the town could support 18 saloons.

Main Street today looks much the same as it did back in the late 1870s. Deadwood has done a great job of keeping its heritage and you can stroll down the street and imagine yourself back in the Old Wild West.