Custer’s State Park- Home of the Tatanka

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Anyone who watched the movie dancing with wolves knows the importance to the Lakota tribe of the Buffalo.We all learned the word Tatanka means bison or buffalo. All photos by Dan Wentzel

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Custer State Park in South Dakota is a must see for any South Dakota vacation. We had to cut our vacation short but, next trip will include a much longer stay. The 71,000 acres that comprise the park allow for a wide variety of activities There are several campgrounds in the park to camp in RV’s and campers for more traditional camping; as well as less developed sites for tents. You can enjoy other experiences by staying in cabins or some of the more civilized lodges.

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Most of the park provides locations for fishing, boating and swimming beaches. The cowboy culture is celebrated with hayrides and chuck wagon meals. While here you can get around on foot or bike or even engage in horseback riding. Numerous trails afford a great recreation opportunity for all fitness levels of hiking. There are even sites where you can rock climb. You are reminded of the Gold Rush days and can learn about panning for gold. The park has several interpretive programs and rangers present many learning sessions on lots of different topics such as canoeing basics.

 

 

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The biggest draw besides the beautiful setting is your opportunity to observe wildlife. There are three separate driving tours you can enjoy though our motor home prevented us doing them all because of height and width of vehicle. There are tunnels on two of the trails so some are better driven in your car or truck. We did drive in the Wild Life loop. They say this tour is at its best early morning or later evening, we hit it a different time and we still saw wildlife. We loved the Wildlife Loop. We discovered a couple herds of antelope or Pronghorns as they’re called with our binoculars and of course there were the buffalo herds. If you have seen the photos of the Bison stopping traffic on the Wildlife Loop Road; that is exactly what we experienced. As you drive the road you will have many safe places to stop and observe. As advertised, lots of buffalo, that is exactly what you will find. The great numbers of Buffalo crossing in front and walking on the side of the road is wonderful to experience. The large bulls often with a mate and their babies is a majestic sight. A delight to be so close to these huge animals as you drive along.

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I found it interesting to note that the park does not supplement the diets of the buffalo. They graze the park and in a normal precipitation year the grassland of the park supports 1450 head of Bison. Use caution around these animals. Never get out of your vehicle. The males can weigh up to 2000 pounds and still can run at 30 miles per hour.

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There seems to be no end to how you can enjoy your stay when visiting Custer’s State Park, so much to take advantage of that I highly recommend it as a must see stop in South Dakota.

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