Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Custer State Park, Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial and more

Wind Cave National Park

    Custer State Park is nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is one of the nation's largest state parks with 114 square miles.  It was named as a state park in 1919 and is named after George Armstrong Custer who led a gold expedition along the French Creek  in 1847. Custer State Park is known for its free-ranging bison herd. Custer is proud to boast one of the largest bison herds in the world with about 1500 head. Pronghorn, deer, elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, burros, prairie dogs, coyotes, eagles, and wild turkeys are among the other animals of the park.  

Wildlife Loop Road offers views of the animals, and bison often stop traffic as they cross or you can follow them while hanging out your sunrooff, like I did.  Following the Bison  and Big ole Bison

The Needles Highway is a harrowing 14-mile route through narrow tunnels and past needlelike rock formations, including the Needles Eye, a granite spire some 30 to 40 feet high with a small slit 3 to 4 feet wide. Here is the video ( that we had to take 4-6 times to get it  right): Needles Hwy Tunnel

The Needles Eye

Also in Custer is the Cathedral Spires.  They are stunningly beautiful towers, pillars and natural spires that are along the Needles Highway.

On Friday afternoon when we first got into the park it was pretty crowded.  We stopped at a picnic area called "Hole in the Wall".  After eating we took a little walk before driving thrugh the super crowded park on the way to the hotel.

Saturday morning we got up early in the hopes of seeing some animals on the Wildlife loop in the park.  We did see plenty of bison, and I was so excited to see the burros.  While they did ot come "begging" at the car like they often do but I was happy enough to see them from a distance.

We also took the Iron Mountain road on the way to Mount Rushmore.  What an amazing surprise it was for us to be able to get a peak of Mt Rushmore through the trees. The road was twisty and turny but it was a lot of fun to travel on.  Arriving at Mt Rushmore we expected it to be crowded and hard to park but it wasn't.  There were a lot of people there but they have a bangin' system for parking.  We got into the park, got parked and were in the first gift shop in about 10 minutes.   I had read in the past, and been told that for some people were underwhelmed by Mt Rushmore when they saw it.  Here are my thoughts: 

My first impression of Mt RM

We spent about 2 hours there and if you go yu MUST have the ice cream.  It was delish. The vanilla recipe was original to Thomas Jefferson.  We got a dish of that and one of the strawberry cheesecake.  So delish.  Mt Rushmore

After leaving Mt Rushmore we headed to the Crazy Horse Memorial.  That was really fantastic.  We got to see an indigenous people dance exibition while we were there.  The attire and dances were so beautiful. 

We spent a couple hours at the memorial.  There was a ton of stuff to see there.  I got to keep a piece of the rock that had been excavated from the memorial building site.  I hate that this sculpture will not be completed in our lifetime. I took this screengrab from their website Crazy Horse Memorial

We went back to the hotel after this and got ready for dinner.  We had decided to walk around downtown Custer and find a place to eat.  However, shortly after we got out there it started to rain so our walking plans were thwarted.  We went back to the hotel and ordered pizza instead.

Sunday morning we got up and took a spin through Wind Cave National Park looking for wildlife.  Saw a couple coyotes and some bison but that's all. After that we headed back to Needles Highway which was thankfully a lot less crowded and I was able to get the photosand videos I wanted without all the traffic.  We also took a chilly hike around Sylvan Lake which was absolutely stunning.  I think (aside from the last big place we went) it was my favorite thing of the whole trip.  It was a moderate hike climbing over rocks and up and down hills but it was worth every step. 

After we left Custer we headed towards Rapid City for the next round of fun which will be in the next blog post.

Thank you all for reading my blog, and watching the videos.  Here is the photo video:

Vacation video part 4- Custer, etc

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