Custer State Park

Travel Guide North America USA Midwestern United States South Dakota Custer State Park

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Introduction

Custer State Park is a state park and wildlife reserve in the Black Hills of southwestern South Dakota, USA. The park is South Dakota's largest and first state park, named after Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer. The area originally started out as sixteen sections, but was later changed into one block of land because of the challenges of the terrain. The park began to grow rapidly in the 1920s and gained new land. During the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps built miles of roads, laid out parks and campgrounds, and built three dams that set up a future of water recreation at the park. In 1964 an additional 93 km2 were added to the park. The park covers an area of over 287 km2 of hilly terrain and is home to many wild animals.

The park is home to a famous herd of 1,500 free roaming bison. Elk, coyotes, mule deer, white tailed deer, mountain goats, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, river otters, pronghorn, cougars, and feral burros also inhabit the park. The park is famous for its scenery, its scenic drives (Needles Highway and the wildlife loop), with views of the bison herd and prairie dog towns. This park is easily accessible by road from Rapid City. Other nearby attractions are Wind Cave National Park, Mount Rushmore, Jewel Cave National Monument, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Badlands National Park.

The popularity of the park grew in 1927, when U.S. President Calvin Coolidge made it his "summer White House" and announced from the Black Hills that he would not seek a second full term in office in the election of 1928.

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Sights and Activities

Favorite outdoor activities include hiking 7,242-foot Harney Peak, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, fishing, chuckwagon suppers and jeep rides to see the bison.

The park boasts scenic drives such as the Needles Highway (SD 87), which twists and turns its way past towering rock formations and through narrow tunnels. At the end of one tunnel stands the Needles Eye, a granite spire with a slit only 3 to 4 feet wide but reaching 30 to 40 feet in the air.

The Peter Norbeck Center is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is located on U.S. Route 16A in Custer. Exhibits focus on the park's natural history and cultural heritage, and include wildlife dioramas, a CCC bunkhouse and a gold prospecting display. The center is named for South Dakota Governor and Senator Peter Norbeck. Many of the park's naturalist programs begin at the center.

Badger Hole, also known as Badger Clark Historical Site, was the home of Charles Badger Clark (1883–1957), who was named South Dakota's first Poet Laureate in 1937 and was noted for his cowboy poetry. The house is maintained as it was when Clark lived there. Visitors can tour the home and hike the adjacent Badger Clark Historic Trail.

The park has an annual buffalo roundup and auction in September, in which the bison in the park (more than 1,000) are rounded up, with several hundred sold at auction so that the remaining number of animals will be compatible with the rangeland forage. The annual roundups began in 1965; more than 10,000 people now attend each one.

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This is version 1. Last edited at 8:02 on May 3, 17 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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