Monday, September 10, 2018

Visiting Custer State Park - Custer South Dakota

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Watching Buffalo in Custer State Park

Custer State Park is one of those legendary places you hear about multiple times in your life.  But the experience of sighting and becoming one with a herd of Bison is incomparable.

We recently camped in Custer, SD at Beaver Lake Campground with friends from   This has become an annual event and one we hope to repeat.  Being in Custer put us in proximity to the State Park and its wildlife. In a word the park is "magnificent". It is home to the largest herd of Bison in North America.  At any given time there are between 1200 and 1700 Bison roaming freely within the boundaries of the park.  On our drive around the Wilderness Loop we saw bison, deer, pronghorn, and prairie dogs.

Most of us know that they were hunted to near extinction, but here they thrive 

There were once millions of Bison roaming the plains, now that seems a faded memory

Present day Bison were introduced into Custer Wildlife Preserve in 1914. These came from a man by the name of Scotty Phillips.  The original thirty six were part of a  herd  he kept at Ft. Pierre.

In 1919 Custer State Forest became Custer State Park

Custer State Park tantalizes you with species that you've likely never seen

This is a Pronghorn

  In North America they are known as the American antelope, prong buck, pronghorn antelope, prairie antelope, or simply antelope

Prairie Dogs towns are common in the park. They tend towards flatter and wetter loose soil in the flats near creeks or bottom land.

The park is also home to White Tailed Deer, Coyotes, Mountain Lions, many species of birds, Big Horn Sheep, Mountain Goats, and Mule Deer.  It also has a population of Burros that were released as part of a herd that hauled visitors to the top of Black Elk Peak.


The highway (14 miles long) winds its way through pine and spruce forests, meadows surrounded by birch and quaking aspen and up into the rugged granite mountains. The roads name comes from the needle-like granite formations which seem to pierce the horizon from afar as you approach. This road has magnificent scenery.

 The Needles Eye

 Sylvan Lake is near the very end of the Needles Highway and offers hiking, swimming and boating opportunities

Martha and I hiked the trail around Sylvan Lake. It's great walk with great views

A 1-week State Park pass at Custer costs $20.  That allows you to drive all of the scenic loops and use all of the day use areas.  It also is good in other state parks in South Dakota.  It is definitely worth the price of admission.


  1. Thanks Charlie for the explanations and pictures. It is truly a magnificent place to visit. And thanks including pictures of Martha. I know y'all enjoyed it.

  2. Do you know Martha? Your comment was listed as an "unknown person."


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