Crazy Horse & Custer State Park

In Blog by Lynne1 Comment

Today we did a little exploration.  We went by the Crazy Horse Memorial but decided not to enter the park.  The entrance fee was $30 for 2 people and we were too cheap to pay just to take a couple of pictures.  We were able to see it from the road, though, and took our pictures that way.
Crazy Horse was a Lakota war leader of the Oglala band in the 19th century. He took up arms against the United States federal government to fight against encroachment by white American settlers on Native American territory and to preserve the traditional way of life of the Lakota people. The memorial pays homage to the Lakota leader who defeated General George Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn.
  • Polish American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski designed the sculpture in 1948, thinking it would take 30 years to build.
  • It's now been 73 years, and it's not nearly finished.
  • The finished version will be 563 feet high and 641 feet long and show a Native American warrior with long hair sitting on horseback.
  • Once complete, this tribute to the Lakota leader will be the largest mountain carving in South Dakota and the world.
We then made our way to Custer State Park.  The fee to enter the park is $20 but it is good for 7 days.
We went through the Sylvan Lake entrance.  It was a long and windy road to the entrance but the views were spectacular!

Pictures do not do it justice! Especially ones taken on a cell phone.


There's only one way to go.

Custer State Park is located in the Black Hills. The park is South Dakota's largest and first state park, named after Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer.  It encompasses 71,000 acres of rolling prairie hills and stunning granite spires.  It is famous for its bison herds, other wildlife, scenic drives, historic sites, visitor centers, fishing lakes, resorts, campgrounds and interpretive programs.  It is definitely worth the $20 to enjoy this park.  Our first stop was Sylvan Lake.  It would be so awesome to have a log cabin overlooking this stunning lake.

From Sylvan Lake, we went onto the Needles Highway. The Needles Highway is more than a 14-mile road—it’s a spectacular drive through pine and spruce forests, meadows surrounded by birch and aspen, and rugged granite mountains. The road’s name comes from the needlelike granite formations that seem to pierce the horizon along the highway. The roadway was carefully planned by former South Dakota Governor Peter Norbeck, who marked the entire course on foot and by horseback. Construction was completed in 1922.

The Needles Eye rock formation. Incredible!


Be careful going through the Needles Eye Tunnel.

It's only 8' wide and 9'9" high!

Some of the scenery you can see from Needles Highway.


We also saw a mountain goat way off on the side of a mountain.

From Needles Highway, we took the turn to the Wildlife Loop RoadWildlife Loop Road travels through 18 miles of open grasslands and pine-speckled hills that much of the park’s wildlife calls home. Depending on the day, you might see bison, pronghorn, whitetail and mule deer, elk, coyotes, burros, prairie dogs, eagles, hawks, and a variety of other birds rarely found together in one location. A medley of colorful wildflowers and prairie grasses surround the road, making for a picturesque drive; and the landscape changes throughout your trip, keeping you on your toes.  

We weren't lucky enough to see all of those animals, but we did see a few.  We came across some "wild" donkeys.  These animals have roamed the expanses of Custer State Park for nearly a century when they were first used as pack animals to get visitors from Sylvan Lake Lodge up the steep path to the summit of Black Elk Peak, the highest point in the U.S. east of the Rockies. When those tourist trips ended, the working burros were released to the wild.  They are now called “begging burros” because they've become famous for approaching vehicles and expecting food. The baby was really cute!

Around 14,000 buffaloes call Custer State Park home.  Although the buffaloes are wild, they need to keep the numbers compatible with available forage.  To keep the amount of buffaloes at a manageable herd, the park does a buffalo roundup each fall.  It's a management tool to prepare for the annual buffalo sale and to provide an opportunity to brand and vaccinate the calves.  It's become quite the spectacle and thousands of people come each year to view it.

If you are in the Black Hills area of South Dakota, definitely make a stop at Custer State Park.  It is one of our favorite places that we've been to so far.  The scenery is astounding and the drive was enjoyable.  For $20, you'll get your money's worth for sure!

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  1. Thanks for sharing your lovely days with all your family and friends. I love seeing the US through your eyes and vivid descriptions. Is Zack at same address? Bday coming soon. Love Auntie Deanie

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