Wandering With Wendy: Time Traveling Through South Dakota

Although Wyomingites may groan about the impending annual ritual of springing ahead and advancing their clocks an hour this weekend, residents in Fort Pierre, South Dakota cross the line between Mountain Time and Central Time every day.

Wendy Corr

March 11, 20234 min read

Time Zone map 3 9 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Editor’s Note: Cowboy State Daily features writer Wendy Corr is traveling across the country as a musician with Cody-based Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Revue. Wendy will report regularly from the road about people and places within reach of the Cowboy State.

Turns out time travel is possible. 

It happens all the time for people who live and work in Fort Pierre, South Dakota.

Perched on the banks of the Missouri River, Fort Pierre is a town of just over 2,000 people in the center of the state of South Dakota. Built on the original location of an early 1800s trading post, the town is one of the oldest continuous settlements in the West, celebrating its bicentennial in 2017. 

Although Fort Pierre is located in the Mountain Time Zone, most residents of the city use Central Time because of the proximity of the capital city, Pierre, which is just across the river.

“The only difference between here and Fort Pierre is the bars stay open an hour later,” said Roseanne Summerside, a resident of Pierre. “Everybody else in Fort Pierre runs on Central Time.”

But if your cellphone catches the wrong cell tower, you could find yourself in a scheduling nightmare. Just ask Brock Greenfield, a former South Dakota state legislator who has spent the last 25 winters in Pierre.

“So one night I thought, well, it’s only 10:20 … and all of a sudden I’m like, NO, it’s 20 after 11,” Greenfield told Cowboy State Daily. “So, you know, it caught me by surprise.”

Legislative Debate

Greenfield said in his 24 years as state senator from Clark, in the northeast part of South Dakota, the time zone differential has been the subject of debate in the state Legislature.

“We’ve tried to change it to make a South Dakota standard (time zone) across the whole state,” said Greenfield, but the effort has not been successful.

“It has to do with the federal government,” he explained. “We would have to get the OK, and thankfully they’re talking about it again.”

As a legislator, Greenfield said the time zone issue is particularly inconvenient on election night.  

“It’s really frustrating for a candidate who lives in the eastern part of the state to have to sit there and wait that extra hour because they can’t start releasing any results of the counting until the polls out west have closed,” he said. 

Greenfield has recently made the permanent move to Pierre, as last year he was elected state commissioner of School and Public Lands, so the time zone issue is now a year-round inconvenience for Greenfield and his wife. 

Greenfield has his smartphone set to stay on Central Time, but just down the road from Pierre the time zone really does split. Any trip back or forth across the river also includes multiple changes of time zones.

“You get out to Midland and Philip, and they are on Mountain Time,” he said.

Living On the Edge

But navigating the clock is just part of the job for people who work near the time zone line. 

Alex Salciedo works as a front desk clerk at the Holiday Inn Express in Fort Pierre, but he used to live in Mobridge near the North Dakota border, which is in Central Time. At that time he was working in Timberlake, 30 miles to the west, in the Mountain Time zone.

“What I would do is, I’d have to be at work at 8 o’clock in Timberlake, so I would leave Mobridge at 8 and get there at 8,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “Then on the flip side, I lived in Timberlake and worked in Mobridge, so it was a two-hour difference – which meant if I worked at 5 in the evening, I would have to leave a couple of hours early just to make sure that I was there on time.”

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Wendy Corr

Broadcast Media Director