Custer State Park

Our last day (yesterday) in South Dakota was a beautiful day and temperatures were supposed to reach mid to upper 70s. We planned to explore Custer State Park some more.

While in Wall, SD, we met some new friends, Rich and Joanne, and they were coming over to our RV park for breakfast that morning. Our park offers a really good breakfast plus coffee or hot tea for $5.00 (scrambled eggs, bacon, and biscuits & gravy, or scrambled eggs, bacon, and two pancakes). We really enjoyed breakfast with our new friends.

(NOTE: Rich and Joanne and us became good friends quite easily. They were going to be in the Mount Rushmore area a day or two after we left Wall. We discovered that their RV park was only about a 20 minute drive from our RV park, so we decided to stay in touch with them. We “dropped in” on them at their RV park the day they arrived on our way back from the Crazy Horse Memorial (see previous post). We made plans to meet in Keystone one day for lunch. After lunch we walked around town exploring some shops. It was fun, and we all talked nonstop. One lady in one store made a comment about us being such good, long-time friends, and she was shocked when we told we had only known each other for a week! Sometimes you meet people that you just “click” with, and it seems like you’ve known them all your life. That would be Rich and Joanne.)

Now, back to Custer State Park. We were going to take the Wildlife Loop of highway through that section of the park. We had heard you could see wild buffalo, donkeys, deer, antelope, mountain goats, elk, coyotes, prairie dogs, big horn sheep, and wild turkey. While we didn’t see near all those animals, we did see a few and really enjoyed the drive.

These are wild donkeys. Some people don’t read or abide by the signs that say “View wildlife from a distance. Do not approach wild animals.”

First buffalo we saw. Before the day was over, we saw hundreds of bison…and some VERY close up!

The buffalo would not get out of the road. What you can’t see is that there was a couple that looked like they were in their 60s, riding a tandem bike. They had nothing between them and the buffalo! Another car graciously offered to be their “shield.” They slowly drove past the nearest buffalo between the bicycle and the buffalo. I was scared to death for that couple!

As you can tell, this bull was very close to our car.

It decided to walk around the back of our car to the other side!

We were very glad Zoey didn’t see it. No telling what the bull might have done if Zoey had started barking. I’m certain that she would have barked if she had seen it!

They are MAGNIFICENT animals!!

There was an abundance of calves in the fields with their Mamas. In just one small section of a field, I counted THIRTY calves! The calves are a much lighter brown color.

Calf nursing.

The Wildlife Loop Highway came out on the south side of Custer State Park. We decided to keep going south to Wind Cave National Park. There are several caves in this park that we would have loved to explore, but we were running out of time.

We drove around the park and enjoyed the scenery and a couple of wild animals. We also stopped at the visitor center.

There were SOOO many beautiful, scenic views!

Can you see the momma dear on the left side of the stream? I saw her hop over, but her baby went to the edge and wouldn’t jump. The fawn then back tracked some and got further away from the stream.

Arrow is pointing to the fawn.

Then the fawn walked downstream some and is in the tall grasses.

Mama dear just turned around and looked at her baby. We watched for quite a long time. Momma watched the little fawn getting further away from the stream. I have no idea what happened because we decided to continue driving.

More prairie dogs! Can you tell I just LOVE these little guys? We even saw a group of prairie dogs running and playing around and around a big bull buffalo! He could have cared less about them. Did you know buffalo are herbivores?

Before we left Wind Cave National Park, we saw one lone buffalo.

When we exited the park on its southern side, we were very close to Hot Springs, SD. In order to get to the highway that would take us back to Hermosa, we had to drive through the town of Hot Springs, SD. I am SO glad we drove through that town!

Hot Springs is a quaint town with about 3,700 people. It contains over 35 sandstone buildings, some of which were constructed as far back as 1892. One of its attractions is the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs and Evan’s Plunge built in 1890. The spring is naturally warmed to 87 degrees year round. Hot Springs is one of the warmest places in South Dakota. It has a mean temperature of 48 degrees, and during December through February, it could have as many as 25 afternoons with temperatures that would exceed 50 degrees (or higher).

The Springs create a river that flows right through the middle of town. There are several waterfalls like this one that is also right in town. Hot Springs was a really lovely town that I wish we had more time to explore.

Tomorrow we continue our journey west.

So, for now ….. “On the Road Again!”


It Was a “Crazy” Kind of Day

It rained our plans out on the day we went to Mount Rushmore (see previous post). We were also going to go to the Crazy Horse Memorial that day. Because of the rain, we didn’t go. Yesterday provided us with another opportunity.

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain monument under construction on privately held land in the Black Hills of Custer County, South Dakota. When finished, it will depict the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing into the distance.

The memorial was commissioned by Lakota elder, Henry Standing Bear. In November of 1939, Standing Bear wrote to a Polish-American sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, who had been working on Mount Rushmore under Gutzon Borglum (the man in charge of sculpting the four presidents on Mount Rushmore). In his letter, Standing Bear informed Ziolkowski “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes,too.”

Standing Bear also wrote to the Department of the Interior offering all of his fertile 900 acres of land in exchange for the barren mountain for the purpose of honoring Crazy Horse. The government agreed to issue a permit for the use of the land with a commission to oversee the project. Standing Bear did not want the government to have any say so over the project, so he chose not to seek government funds. He, instead, relied upon influential Americans interested in the welfare of the American Indian to privately fund it.

Korczak Ziolkowski, a well-known sculptor, started work on the monument in 1948. After 71 years, it is still not completed. There are many project unknowns that affect its completion: lightning storms, blizzards, and the mountain’s high iron content which makes the rock harder to carve to name a few.

Another factor is funding. The Crazy Horse sculpture is a nonprofit project which is funded entirely on admission fees and donations. There have been offers of state and federal funding over the years, but Ziolkowski turned them down. He did not believe the government would complete the carving.

Ziolkowski died in 1982 and was buried at the foot of the mountain. At that time, his wife, Ruth, took over the project as director of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. Ruth died in 2014 at age 87. All ten of their children and two of their grandchildren have continued the carving of the monument or are active in the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation.

Ziolkowski had plans for more than just a mountain sculpture. There is the Indian Museum of North America, The Native American Educational and Cultural Center, and the Indian University of North America. There are also plans for a medical center.

There is so much to see and do here, so plan to stay at least half a day, or, better yet, all day.

Yes! Those are people on top of the mountain. Five years ago when I was here with my dad, I don’t think they were letting people go to the top.

This model of the sculpture is 1/34th the size that the completed memorial will be (see the mountain in the background).

We decided to take a different route home than the one we took going to Crazy Horse. Everyone had told us about the beauty of the drive on Needles Highway (actually it’s Highway 87). We were excited to take that drive until ….. it started raining. We stopped at the Custer State Park entrance to ask one of the workers about taking the road in the rain. They said the road would be fine, so we headed down Needles Highway. Words cannot describe the beauty of the rock formations the higher up we got. I’m sure my photos would have been prettier had the sun been out, but you can’t change the weather.

After we finished traveling along Needles Highway, we headed home. The highways we had to take went through the middle of Custer State Park. This is a beautiful park that I hope we get to go through another day, and at a more leisurely pace.

However, there are some big horn sheep that seem to think they “own” the Highway. They were in the middle of the road in the morning, and they were (still???) there that afternoon (you can see the road is wet from the rain).

I wish I knew what was so “tasty” on that road.

It was a great day!

So, for now ….. “On the Road Again!”


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