Custer State Park, SD

Since the early 1900’s, Custer State Park is home to an abundance of wildlife and spectacular views.  Spanning 71,000 acres, the park is rich in history and provides its visitors with countless adventures.  Dan and I traveled the road that encompasses Custer State Park many times during our travels; however, my favorite is an 18-mile stretch called “Wildlife Loop Road” which is rich in wildlife such as Big Horn Sheep, Elk, Pronghorn, Prairie Dogs, and much, much, more.

Wildlife Loop

Custer State Park “Wildlife Loop Road” Map

One of the most famous attractions in Custer State Park is the free-roaming Bison herds.  Dan and I were in the right area at the right time and were able to observe a round-up as they were moving a herd from one area of the park to another.  The sight of hundreds of Bison coming at you was exhilarating!  Instantly, we parked the car and opened the sunroof where I could poke my camera outside for the wonderful photo opportunity…  Such amazing creatures.

My favorite part of Custer State Park are the “Begging Burros”.  The Burros roaming the park today are descendants of the pack animals once used to trek visitors to Harney Peak Summit.  Full of character, they gain the attention of the visitors that travel in the park (both inside and outside of cars). The Burros mostly inhabit one area of the park where a herd of about 50 will try to obtain food, sometimes even causing traffic jams as they block the road.  Of course, I would always recommend using caution when encountering the herd, but I am amazed and entertained every time I see them.

Custer State Park-DAN_5863-5863

If ever in South Dakota, make sure Custer State Park is on your list of places to visit!

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A Time to Love

After leaving the Badlands, Dan and I (along with Tindra) spent the next few days in and around Custer, SD.  This was Tindra’s last trip with us and we were so grateful that we had this time with her. The magical views of the Black Hills National Forest never do get old.  The Black Hills get their name from the Lakota Sioux, “Paha Sapa”, meaning the hills are black. From a distance, the hills of this area do appear black due to the towering Ponderosa Pine forest; however, up close, these forests are teeming with color.

Needles Highway is another favorite of mine. Completed in 1922, the highway is named after the needle-like granite rock formations that were carved over many years by erosion.  Such beauty is found in this area and surprises are noticed around every turn.

We camped out for the week, but decided to move into a log cabin when a snow storm hit the area leaving 3-4” of the fluffy white stuff.  The snow blanketed the Pines in the Black Hills creating a peacefulness that I will never forget…  A Time to Love.

Badlands National Park, SD

Badlands National Park: The Lakota named this land “Mako Sica”, meaning “land bad”;

Badlands National Park

The park consists of roughly 244,000 acres of prairie grass mixed with sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires.  Looking out over the sometimes lunar landscape, it is desolation at its best… You can look for miles and see no sign of civilization.  Despite the solitude, the land has been so ravaged by the elements it has become quite stunning. Erosion of the Badlands reveals sedimentary layers of different colors: purple and yellow (shale), tan and gray (sand and gravel), red and orange (iron oxides) and white (volcanic ash). These striking geologic deposits also contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds; prehistoric bones are still being uncovered today by park officials.

I cannot even tell you how many times Dan and I drove the 30-mile Badlands Loop, how many times we stopped to hike the trails to absorb the surrounding beauty, or view the abundance of wildlife that roam the park’s boundaries. We stayed in the area for 2 days and with each entrance into Badlands National Park, we encountered something new and exciting.

If ever in the area, stop in at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center situated near Cedar Pass Lodge to learn more about what the park has to offer.