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What Is South Dakota’s Least Populous County?

A farmer harvests crops South Dakota.
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The 2010 census put South Dakota’s population at just over 800,000 people, with estimates saying it could be near 850,000 now. But, the people are not spread out very evenly. There are large pockets of South Dakotas in the southeast and around the Black Hills. We also have the capital city in the middle and a concentration in the northeast. The rest of the state is relatively empty in comparison.

I wanted to know which South Dakota county had the smallest population, it turns out that Jones County in the south central part of the state is it.

Jones county’s population in the 2010 census was 1,006 people. Murdo, SD, the county seat, has a population of 488. That’s fascinating. It’s a population density of about one person per square mile. That’s like frontier population levels.

To put that in perspective:

  • Sioux Falls elementary schools have an enrollment of over 11,000 students.
  • Chances are you’re connected to someone on Facebook with more friends than there are people in Murdo.
  • Everybody in Jones county would fill about 1/12th of the Denny Sanford Premiere Center.
  • Jazzfest 2014 packed around 110,000 people into Yankton Trail Park.

I can barely imagine how quiet and dark it is there at night.

Hunting, agriculture and tourism are big parts of Jones County. It’s the home of the Pioneer Auto Show and 1880’s Town.

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