Sunday, August 28, 2011

Custer State Park

As we drove from North Dakota into South Dakota across the prairie we began to notice off in the distance this long line of hills that appeared to be black. It became quite clear how these hills got their name. Custer State Park is a great place to get an up close look of the Black Hill. The highway through the park has fabulous views of the hills and many different animals. The rock formations in the Black Hills are very interesting. These are called the Cathedral Spires.
More granite formations that have survived years of erosion. These types of formations are called needles
Little Devil's Tower is a smaller version of the one in Wyoming.

The fire tower at the top of Harney Peak at 7,242 feet.

Here we are at the top of Harney Peak. This is the highest point between the Rocky Mountains and the Swiss Alps, so we felt like real mountain climbers. The actual climb was not that difficult as we started at 6,145 feet and the 3 1/2 mile trail was not very steep.

The fabulous 360 degree view from the top makes the climb well worth the effort. The brown trees are dieing because of an invasive pine beetle. Because of Global Warming the winter have been to warm to kill the beetles. We have seen this same issue all over the West.

Chris and Jim Guld are the Geeks on Tour. We have crossed paths with them several times on the road. This year we just missed them in Nappanee, IN and Madison, WI and they were right behind us when we got off the interstate in Rapid City, ND but turned off to another campground. On our Harney Peak hike we met them on the trail. They travel the country doing computer classes at RV rallies. We have taken the classes and purchased one of their videos and would recommend both. They are also on their way to the Escapade Rally in Gillette, WY so we look forward to seeing them again and taking another of their classes.

These stacks of logs are part of the effort to control the pine beetle. The diseased trees are logged and the small logs are piled up to be burned when it is wet enough to control the burn.

The Needles Highway is a must do in the Black Hills. This is why we tow a car. It took this bus about fifteen minutes to squeeze through this tunnel that is one of five.

We saw more wildlife in the park than we have seen in a long time. This is a great place to see the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play. Here a few sheep on the side of the hill right along the road. They were knocking rocks down on to the road.

A white tail buck with his rack still in velvet.

A pronghorn.


The park has a herd of 1300 buffalo who have free range to roam. The signs in the park read, Animals At Large. This is where the movie Dances with Wolves was filmed. We saw this herd of 200 or 300 coming across the hill so we stopped and waited and were rewarded with really up close sights and sounds. Click here for a short video of the buffalo surrounding the car.

Each September the entire herd is rounded up and placed in corrals to be examined. The newborns are branded and some are sold to keep the herd at a manageable size. Several people told us that seeing the entire herd running across the prairie is a must see so we have decided this a very good reason to return to Custer State Park again in the future. We really enjoyed spending time in the park and highly recommend a visit. You are sure to see buffalo and if you drive through in late afternoon you have a very good chance of seeing all the other animals as well. Very cool!!

1 comment:

Jim and Bobbie said...

Very interesting blog post. Good job!