When I started planning this vacation, Tripp saw ads for a Buffalo Jeep Safari and really, REALLY wanted to do that. I’m glad he was persistent, because this adventure was well worth the money. The vehicles did some off-roading, but the best part was none of us had to drive and pay attention to the road. Additionally, our driver/guide was very informative about the entire park as well as the herd.
Our tour was scheduled for 11am, so we grabbed some breakfast in the town of Custer at a cute coffee shop, the building had been a bank in its previous life. Lizzie was able to sit outside with us. Custer was a really cute town and a short drive into Custer SP, a primary reason I chose the town of Custer to camp for this leg of our trip.
Custer SP has unfortunately experienced some massive fires recently, our guide pointed out various areas of impact. Some of the herd images show that not only were park grounds damaged, but some members of the herd as well (the uneven fur in some of the closeups are the result of the fires). Tripp was able to sit in the passenger seat of the Jeep; Roy and I joked our guide’s ears were bleeding after the tour from his questions, but Tripp was thrilled to chat with someone able to answer all of his questions for the duration of our 2+ hour guided trip.
The large herds are females and young calves. Remember the lone (very large) buffalo that we saw alongside the road on our way home from Mt Rushmore? That was a male. On the tour we learned the males leave their herd once they are old enough, as they tend to be aggressive and could hurt the young calves. For the duration of our trip, we saw buffalo in various places and it varied from a small group of male cows to very large herds.
One example of recent fire damage inside the park.
The Jeep Safari was a great choice and another highlight of the trip; we recommend this for anyone planning to visit Custer SP.
Once our tour concluded, we continue to drive around the park. Custer SP is not your typical state park (or at least what I think of as a state park here in Kentucky). If you read my post on Mt Rushmore, you saw we enjoyed for dinner at Sylvan Lake Lodge. There are several lodging options inside the park grounds, each with unique characteristics. We also looked around the crown jewel lodge, State Game Lodge. Calvin Coolidge used this as a summer “White House” during his tenure as President.
Front porch of the State Game Lodge.
After a full afternoon of scouring the black hills for buffalo and touring the various lodges inside Custer SP, we decided that Lizzie was lonely and headed back to Huckleberry Tiffin. Later, we ventured back into Custer and enjoyed dinner at Black Hills Burger and Bun. OMG, Best.Burgers.EVER. Tripp had a traditional cheeseburger, Roy had a Hot Granny beef burger and I had the Western buffalo burger. Tripp also had a very large chocolate shake. Roy and I ended up splitting our sandwiches 50/50. So delicious…..
Top: Hot Granny (beef), Bottom: Western (buffalo)
After dinner, Tripp is always a sucker for a good mini golf course, so we played 18 holes then called it a night.
Tip: If you are thinking about a trip to South Dakota’s black hills region, I would recommend visiting Custer SP in September for the annual Buffalo roundup. We obviously don’t have this option with Tripp in school; however, the annual event is a mechanism for the park to manage the herd population, brand new calves, provide required immunizations and prepares certain of the herd for sale. I can only imagine the sound and images of these mighty beasts all being rounded into stalls for this annual maintenance.
Next up Wind Cave, Mammoth Site & Deadwood.