Monday, May 23, 2022
Temperature 45 Degrees, Sun, then Rain, then Sun
Custer State Park
Wildlife Loop Road
Neither cold, nor wind, nor rain (and sometimes you get all three in one day), will keep us from going sightseeing. After all, that is what we came here for. And who knows if we will ever be back this way again. So we are going to make the most of it regardless of what Mother Nature throws at us.
We decided to begin with a tour of Custer State Park. A park which by the way will in all likelihood be renamed within the next several years. No one has any idea of the new name but probably something that will honor the indigenous people in this area. Old General Custer is not well liked in these parts. When you dig into his history you find that he was a loud-mouth braggard that thought little of the native American Indians who once lived in this region. It is going to be interesting, I believe, to discover what the park will eventually be known as.
But one thing that is sure not to change is the very character of the park. There will still be the scenic drives, fishing lakes, bison herds, all other kinds of wildlife, campgrounds and resorts, and towering granite spires . This is what we were here to discover and see for ourselves firsthand.
We began our exploration of the park with a stop at the Visitor Center.
With an area of 114 square miles it is among the largest state parks in the United States.
We learned that Governor Norbeck was the overwhelming driving force behind the formation of the park and the development of the scenic drives throughout the park. He believed in both the preservation of the natural beauty of this region but also that the region should be accessible so that all could enjoy its beauty and wonders.
It was Custer’s expedition in 1874 into this region that led to originally naming the park after him. We’ll have another blog on both Custer’s expedition and also Gordon Stockade.
As in many other areas of the country during the Great Depression, The Civilian Conservation Corps was instrumental in constructing much of the infrastructure and many of the buildings in the park.
There is so much to see, to discover, to learn that at first it was overwhelming. We were wanting to go in too many directions at once. Eventually, we put a plan together and began to implement it.
Pick any building in this region and you will find one, if not many walls decorated with furs, and animal heads, and mounted animals.
Where do we feel most at home in the park? I don’t believe we can answer that just yet. We are still in discovery mode. Check back with us later and perhaps we’ll know.
There is also a large and very informative exhibit regarding the bison that inhabit the park. However, just a week ago they opened the new Bison Center that almost mirrors what is in the Visitor Center. So, in a future blog I’ll combine information from both the Visitor Center and the Bison Center and share with you some interesting information about the Bison herd that roams the park.
We discovered that there are three scenic drives within the park: Wildlife Loop Road; Needles Highway; and, Iron Mountain Road.
We decided to first drive the Wildlife Loop Road. The road is 18 miles long and loops around the southern part of the park. There are numerous turn-outs along the way that allow you to stop and enjoy the views. We had high hopes of seeing all kinds of wildlife along the road. Alas, that was not to be the case. We later discovered that if you really want to see wildlife you need to be on the road no later than 8 am in the morning. Uh, I don’t know if that is going to happen.
Then, there they were. The bison of Custer State Park.
Of course the signs are everywhere warning you to stay away. They may look slow but they can cover the distance of a football field in little or no time.
Now, we have an animal of a different sort.
Here we have what are affectionately known as the begging burros of Custer State Park. These animals were first used as pack animals to get visitors from Sylvan Lake Lodge up the steep path to the summit of Black Elk Peak. When the tourist trips ended the burros were released into the wild. They are extremely friendly and if you meet them on the road don’t roll your window down unless you have a cracker or an apple for them to eat!
OK, time to call it a night. Time once again to bring the extra blankets out, turn on the electric heaters and let the water drip. Yup, another cold night. We’re sort of, just sort of, getting used to them. But warm weather is on the way. Should be here, now let me see, I believe this Thursday or Friday. How long will it stick around? You got me.
Thanks again for spending some time with us. It’s always great to be able to share our story with family and friends. Comments? Feel free to share them with me. And always remember, cherish every moment of every day that God gives you and live those moments to the fullest.
Our continuing mission remains the same: to explore as many new states as possible, to seek out new acquaintances and make new friends, to boldly go where we have not been before