So you are probably wondering how to find your great place and what that has to do with Custer State Park in South Dakota? What does that mean and why am I writing about it? Truth is, your great place, and in this case, my great place is a spiritual rather than physical location. It’s a state of mind, a moment when you find something that was totally unanticipated and the connection you experience at that moment.
Trust me, this can happen in even the largest of tourist destinations. I know because I was lucky enough to experience it several times last year. Mr. Misadventures and I were truly blessed to be able to visit so many wonderful national and state parks during our year on the road. It has given me a deep appreciation for the phenomenal park assets that the United States has to offer. I highly encourage you and your families to get out there and explore our parks.
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When I think back over the last year and the parks we visited, my great places had one thing in common. Buffalo.
Last year was my first time seeing these beautiful beasts in the wild and I immediately fell in love with them. They are magnificent animals and I felt an instant connection with them. I wish there were more places to see them in the wild.
And that’s the main reason I am dying to visit Custer State Park.
Last fall when we left Wyoming heading to visit our RV manufacturer in Alabama, we drove through South Dakota. We drove through the badlands and the black hills. We stayed one night in Rapid City and were literally 30 minutes away from both Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park, but despite really wanting to go, we were unable to work it into our travel schedule. I swore then and there that we would be back.
I really think the Black Hills region of South Dakota has a lot to offer. It is a great spot for a family vacation with unique adventures like wildlife viewing, dude-ranching, gold-mining, hiking, fishing, with a little bit of history and American culture thrown in that will satisfy your inner educational needs. Truly a one-of-a-kind vacation experience.
But my big plans lie with Custer State Park. And their 1,300 buffalo!
They have a really unique activity at Custer State Park, a buffalo round-up! Taking place every year in September, cowboys and cowgirls round-up the park’s herd, if you are good on a horse you can even volunteer! I’d love to see it happen!
It starts at 9 in the morning and the park hosts a pancake breakfast to fuel you up for the big event. There is also an art festival with 150 vendors showcasing fine arts and crafts products from South Dakota. During the festival, you will be entertained by Western and Native American music and dancing.
The round-up is over by noon leaving the rest of your day to explore more of the park. Custer State Park in the Black Hills encompasses 71,000 acres. That means it’s a great space for hiking, hunting (in season!) and fishing. There is the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road where you’ll see buffalo, deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep.
The park is also known for its friendly burros.
I do have to stop for a PSA. Please do remember that all the wildlife in the park is that, wild and you must keep a safe distance. Buffalo are very dangerous and can attack. The burros are the only wildlife in the park that are considered friendly but even they can kick or bite.
If you are into birds, you are in for a real treat. Custer State Park has 200 species for you to enjoy including the prairie falcon, Lewis’s woodpeckers, and the gorgeous mountain bluebird. I’d really love to see a golden eagle as well, I’ve only seen the bald variety!
Custer State Park offers a lot, not all of it focused on wildlife. Although, that will be my favorite part! There is the park’s namesake as well. You can hike along French Creek where General George Armstrong Custer discovered gold. You can check out the log cabin of one of South Dakota’s first poets, Badger Clark and you can visit the brand new visitors center to learn more about the region and park history.
You can stay in the park too. Lodging options are quite varied. There’s the noble State Game Lodge along with resorts at Sylvan Lake and Legion Lake. Or experience what it’s like to be a cowboy or girl at Blue Bell, the park’s mini dude ranch.
As for me, I’m really looking forward to checking out this guy!
As you can see, with so much to offer, it’s easy to find your great place in South Dakota. Come find your family’s “Great Place” in Custer State Park! Experience wildlife, history, Americana and more in your own family adventure.
How about you? Have you been to Custer State Park? How about South Dakota? What was your favorite thing you saw or did? If you haven’t been, have I inspired you to go? Do tell!
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