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Find Your Great Place in South Dakota – Custer State Park

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Custer State Park in South Dakota.

Custer State Park in South Dakota.

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.

When I think back over the last year and the parks we visited, my great places had one thing in common. Buffalo.

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!

Custer State Park Buffalo Family

A buffalo herd in Custer State Park.

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.

Annual buffalo round-up at Custer State Park

Annual buffalo roundup at Custer State Park. Photo credit: South Dakota from Flickr.

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.

Bighorn sheep in Custer State Park

Bighorn sheep in Custer State Park. Photo credit: Matthew Paulson.

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.

Burros on the road in Custer State Park

Burros on the road in Custer State Park. Photo credit: Bruce Fulton

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!

Lewis's woodpecker

Lewis Woodpecker Photo credit: Mick Thompson

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!

Custer State Park Buffalo Snow

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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Tammy

Friday 27th of April 2018

I must comment on this because I feel the same way about Custer State Park....the buffalo are magnificent to see up close and personal, the burros are so friendly they wanted to come home with us, Needles Hwy is a site to see theres an amazing thing to see there through one of the tunnels u can see mount rushmore, it was like looking through a framed picture! Just jaw dropping .....we came to Keystone and Custer last summer now were coming back this summer for 2 weeks....South Dakota and Wyoming is my happy place 😍

Calvin F.

Wednesday 5th of July 2017

Nice park, I like the wild animals

Laura

Tuesday 18th of April 2017

I love the buffalo photos! And I'd be happy to meet those adorable friendly burros. I'm planning on doing more North American travel this year (less in Europe) and I've added Custer State Park to my fast-growing list.

Crystal Ward

Monday 17th of April 2017

Oh wow, it looks like an amazing place! I've somehow still never been to that part of the country. Definitely adding the park to my travel bucket list, though!

Andi Fisher

Tuesday 18th of April 2017

@Crystal, I'm not sure I ever would have without the RV, but I am definitely glad I did and totally want to go back!

Murissa Shalapata

Friday 14th of April 2017

Wow I am in awe. The buffalo roundup would be a sight to behold. The photos area spectacular but I know to see it in person would be amazing. What a cool spot Andi!

Andi Fisher

Saturday 15th of April 2017

@Murissa, I'd LOVE to see the round-up! Do you have spots with any buffalo or bison in Western Canada?