BLACK HILLS BUDGET FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES
Mount Rushmore is the greatest iconic symbol of America and not too far in its distance is another great Black Hills destination; Custer State Park, where you’ll find the most patriotic herd of wild animals: The Begging Burrows proudly display their red, white and blues as you travel along Wildlife Loop Road.
The wild burros of Custer State Park come in a variety of colors from those red, white and blues, to black, brown, and paint and they will give you a warm reception as they earn their name, “begging” burros and cause traffic jams along the road as they block your vehicle in order to inspect its contents all while hoping you’ll play along and give them some treats.
An afternoon of pure joy while also a budget friendly Black Hills activity.
Most people plan, and hope, for the encounter and come prepared to treat up to 50 fuzzy faces as they stick their heads into your vehicle to see what you have inside. We were prepared with baby carrots.
My three-year-old son laughed hysterically as one of the burros became very interested in the ball he was holding, as it too was perhaps edible: A burro never knows until they try it out… and they will always try it out.
Wild burro encounters come with guaranteed smiles and laughter from visitors of every age and memories to last a lifetime. Even if you don’t want to put down your window for these “Begging” burros you can find delight as a spectator and watch others being searched for goodies.
WILDLIFE LOOP ROAD: BUFFALO JAM
Once the burros have completed their rounds they move on and stand in wait at the side of the road for the next batch of sightseers and give you the opportunity to continue with your 18-mile long journey down Wildlife Loop Road, but make sure you stop for the “Buffalo Jam.”
1500 free roaming bison give meaning to the term “Buffalo Jam” and they do indeed cause a jam up. These creatures are big… very, very big. They also are not concerned with your tiny little car, SUV, or tank as they reach up to 2,000 pounds and are not particularly the friendliest of creatures. You will drive past countless signs that warn of their aggression, so no photo ops with a bison-head peaking in your window, please.
We happened to be there during their mating season, which by all accounts was actually fairly humorous. The giant male bison’s could not keep their moans to themselves, or their tongues in their mouths. Oh, and the smell. Nothing like a smelly, heavy breathing, tongue-dangling male to bring on a good laugh, or two. My advice: Don’t have your windows down, don’t laugh at them when their standing inches from your vehicle and by all means, (this one’s for you Richard), please DON’T make an angry grunting sound at them from your car window as huddling together in your car and repeating the jingle “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” will not save you from their advances unless you have a specific agreement with your State Farm insurance agent.
STATE GAME LODGE: CUSTER
Once you are freed from the “Buffalo Jam,” travel on down to Coolidge General Store for a snack. The store is located adjacent to the State Game Lodge and has some pretty interesting history of its own. The building was originally used for White House staff while Coolidge was in his “summer White House,” and shipbuilders from Minnesota built it with a likeness of a ships hull. Pick up some popcorn and sit on the steps with a drink and enjoy making memories.
HISTORY: CUSTER STATE PARK
Aside from the variety of wildlife you will encounter in Custer State Park, you will also find vast blue skies anchored to endless green grasses as far as your eyes can see: the beauty here is endless.
Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota is a 71,000-acre wildlife paradise.
Originally established in 1912 as a wildlife reserve and made famous by “Silent Cal” (President Coolidge) in 1927 when he made the Game Lodge his “summer White House,” in an effort to escape the heat and humidity of the summer in Washington D.C.
ADDITIONAL AREA ACTIVITIES
Other activities can be scheduled from the State Game Lodge including a guided off-road trek in an open-air jeep to view the native wildlife, Chuckwagon suppers, horseback riding and guided fly-fishing excursions and September marks the annual buffalo roundup and auction. There is a State Park entrance fee for your vehicle and scheduled activities have an additional fee.
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