You won’t want to miss anything that Custer State Park has to offer, so stop at the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center, named for an early conservationist and former South Dakota governor. Built from native wood and stone in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the structure is distinctive and houses exhibits and displays that interpret the region’s natural and cultural history. Also pick up a copy of the park guide, Tatanka, (means Bison in the Lakota Sioux language) for details on hiking, trout fishing, camping, geocaching, guided wildlife tours, and the park’s year-round events. The Wildlife Station Visitor Center on Wildlife Loop Road is the place to get your questions answered about the flora and fauna you encounter along the loop.
When it comes to camping in the park, choosing a specific site won’t be an easy decision. You can set up along a flowing stream or lake, in the midst of a forest, or in open meadows. With so many options, each in a different setting with a variety of amenities, you might want to stay a few days and try them all! Many of the larger campgrounds—Blue Bell, Center Lake, Game Lodge and Stockade Lake North—also offer interpretive programs during the summer. Naturalists educate campers on a variety of park topics, and costumed characters from the 1870s have even been known to make an entertaining appearance.
Beautiful resort style accommodations—State Game Lodge, Sylvan Lake Resort, Legion Lake Resort, and Blue Bell Lodge— also make it easy to linger in nature-loaded Custer State Park. Even if you are staying at the nice campgrounds, take a peek inside these historic treasures and maybe treat yourself to a South Dakota specialty meal of buffalo, trout, or pheasant in one of their dining rooms. Each inn is extraordinary: the State Game Lodge served as the “Summer White House” for President Calvin Coolidge in 1927; Sylvan Lake Resort offers breath-taking views of Harney Peak; Legion Lake Resort was once the site of the local American Legion post; and Blue Bell Lodge was built in 1920 by an executive at Bell Telephone. You’ll also find chapels, general stores, and gift shops at each lodge.
With 71,000 scenic acres, a large and diverse animal population, plus first-rate visitor facilities and activities to suit the entire family, Custer State Park could easily be mistaken for a national park. From the open grasslands and rolling hills to clear lakes, streams, and granite peaks, every turn in the road or trail guarantees another fantastic view. And the 114 protected square miles means there is plenty of room to explore and enjoy the beauty of the Black Hills. Bring your sense of adventure to Custer State Park and roam wild like the buffalo!
Peter Norbeck Visitor Center (605) 255-4464
Campsites are $18 per night, $22 with electrical hookups. Make camping reservations online or call 1-800-710-CAMP (2267).Research Campgrounds, Plan RV Safe Routes & Turn your phone into an RV GPS.
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In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com