Custer State Park, South Dakota

By: investorpoet
March 12th, 2006

After getting almost no sleep because of crazy neighbors, we were roused from our dozing about 8:15 by the maids of the Rushmore View Inn. I guess that was our cue. Luckily we had found another place to stay the night before and gave our 48 hours notice. We only had one more night at this glorious facility. After walking to “downtown” Keystone and back for breakfast, we headed to the Custer State Park wildlife loop. Bethany was excited to see the buffalos.

The drive towards Custer State Park brought many spectacular views from the tops of hills, through tunnels carved out of granite. These hills gradually gave way to prairie. This prairie was bordered by the remains of a forest, trees stripped of anything horizontal by a forest fire. It was an eerie scene resembling the scattering of monochromatic pick-up-sticks. A roadside sign places the fire in the summer of 1987. Ponderosa pine seedlings were just starting to take shape amidst the old forest remains.

Fire Damege in Custer State Park, South Dakota

Bethany was starting to get excited. We knew we were close. We started seeing signs:



Then a buffalo up ahead. Bethany got out of the car and approached it. What a majestic animal! They can outrun a horse. Their weight can exceed one ton. I can’t imagine another animal that size is as agile. I remember park rangers in Yellowstone as a child explaining that buffalo in the park were far more dangerous than bears. Bethany was out of the car, just across a two-lane road from this beast, a beautiful and dangerous beast. I was pleading with her to stay the hell away from it. The buffalo was used to this, but I wasn’t! I was making sure I had at least an automobile between him and me. Bethany was less than 15 feet away leaning into a photo, getting different angles. I need to get her a zoom lens! Finally, she gets her required photos and we continue on.

Part of a Herd of Bison in Custer State Park, SD

The first lone buffalo was only a hint of what we would soon find. The whole herd, a few thousand buffalo, trotting along the road. It was incredible. They were setting a pretty good pace, the mothers and their young calves. I could only imagine what the plains must have been like—from Ohio to the Rockies—with thousands of herds of thousands prior to being hunted to the brink of extinction. This was a true highlight of our trip.

And isn’t it ironic about the name..?

(Originally posted in 1999 by Dan)

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