Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Custer State Park

The elusive big horn sheep
One of my very favorite parks in the country is Custer State Park in South Dakota.  Bob and I first explored the park on a three week trip to Yellowstone National Park that we had taken before I retired.   We were camping outside of the park and only visited it for a day.  We loved it so much that we decided it deserved further exploration.  When we went cross country in 2010 we camped there for five nights and really got to enjoy this gem of a park. 

Custer State Park is like a mini-Yellowstone, but without the crowds.  You have close up adventures with the huge bison herd that resides there, the wild donkeys, antelope and even big horn sheep.  The proximity of the park to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse monument, the historical town of Deadwood, Wind Cave National Park and Badlands National Park make this a great central spot to stay and explore South Dakota.

We had already visited Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, and although we saw bison, bear and mountain  goats we hadn't seen any big horn sheep.  We stayed in the Blue Bell campground and were very close to the wildlife loop, so every day we went around the loop and were treated to plenty of sightings of bison, antelope and the resident wild donkeys.  The donkeys are extremely tame and beg for apples or other treats that they have become used to.   Often we would be caught up in a bison traffic jam, as they surrounded your car to cross the road.  This was all wonderful, but still no sightings of big horn sheep!

The day before we left the park we were driving into our campground, and guess what we almost drove into - a female big horn sheep that froze long enough for Bob to get a shot of her, and me to get some wonderful video.  Well, that up-close encounter really made the stay for me!

This is such an outstanding park that we will return again if we are out that way.  It is more than worth the $20.00 nightly fee.

One of the many antelope we saw

Feeding the "wild" donkeys

View of Mount Rushmore from the highway


Bison seen during an evening drive on the wildlife loop


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