It was South Dakota’s first state park and is the largest it has. It was named after Lt Colonel George Armstrong Custer, who I had learned about at school, who had fought and died in the Battle of Little Bighorn and one of a few places in the US named after him, though it is a few hundred miles away from where he died in the battle.
The park was founded in 1912 and since then the size of the park has considerably increased. It now covers an area of 287km2.
I drove down the Iron Mountain Road to the east entrance from Mount Rushmore. This road is a beautiful drive and there are a few tunnels which frame Mount Rushmore when you look through them. Unless you are me and only find this out after and have actually taken the pictures the opposite way!! Once I got into the park I stopped at the visitors centre. I found out that there was a 18 mile wildlife loop road and decided to drive this first. I was told by the rangers that if I saw any of the 1,300 bison that roam the park that I need to stay in the car, or be at least a football pitch away from them as they can run very fast and are dangerous.
I hadn’t been driving long when I saw a few cars had stopped ahead of me to watch the bison in the field to the side. As I couldn’t get past I decided to stop and have a look at them myself. It was the first time I had seen bison in real life and was amazing to see how big they actually are.
All of a sudden I realised that they were now crossing the road and I was surrounded by the herd in front and behind my car. After the warning the ranger had given me I was quite scared they would attack the car but I guess they are used to them and just walked around all the cars. Some tourists even got out to get close up shots!! No way I was going to do that, well at least not till later in Yellowstone when I saw a bear!!
The scenery along the drive is stunning and I couldn’t help but stop along the way to take pictures.
I then saw the begging burros that true to name were blocking the road, not letting the cars pass and trying to get some food from the tourists. I parked up to take a few pics for my niece who loves donkeys and they wandered close to see if I had any food!!
As I was driving along I also saw the Pronghorn Antelope which looked beautiful.
At the side of the road I also spotted the Prarie Dogs. At the time I had no idea what they were, but they were so cute to watch for a while. Though to me they don’t look much like dogs!!
After the wildlife loop I decided to drive the Needles Highway, it is 14 miles long and you drive through the forests and the granite formations, one of them called the Needles Eye. It’s a stunning drive with amazing scenery.
At the end of the highway I got to Sylvan Lake, where a couple were getting married at the edge of the lake. It is such a beautiful spot and I got out of the car and had a walk around the lake.
From here I then drove around to Crazy Horse Memorial to explore and see the laser show in the evening. It was a busy but amazing day with lots of beautiful sights and if you are in the area then you must visit Custer State Park.
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