Unfortunately for Fossil Cycad, its official recognition as an American landmark came at a difficult time for the country overall. “It was a period of economic hardship,” says Santucci. “Fossil Cycad wasn’t really developed like other national parks and monuments were.” That meant no one was hired to watch over the land. While the superintendent of nearby Wind Cave National Park was put in charge of its overall management, “day-to-day surveillance was entrusted to local ranchers,” writes Santucci. The site’s only sign—a 15-inch carved wooden plank—abbreviated both “National” and “Monument,” but made sure to spell out “NO PROSPECTING.”And that is why you've never heard of Fossil Cycad National Monument. Read about the life and death of the national park at Atlas Obscura.
Despite this lack of amenities, tourists continued to swing by, and to take pieces of the monument home with them. “People reading in newspapers about the monument in the Black Hills would come,” says Santucci. Natural erosion meant that new layers of fossils were gradually exposed, creating more buzz and more foot traffic. Such was the Fossil Cycad catch-22: when there weren’t any visible fossils, it wasn’t much of a monument. But whenever there were enough to attract visitors, those same visitors meant they were quick to disappear.