Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Custer State Park part 1

Friday September 16, 2011
Broken Arrow Campground
Custer, South Dakota


Today was a beautiful day so
we decided to take get out and
explore Custer State Park.
Since we were going to try to do all the “scenic drives”,
we took Ruby to the gasoline trough
in the town of Custer where regular was $3.62/ gallon.


We went first to the Visitor’s Center
This really lovely stone building was built in the 30’s by the CCC.









Don’t you love the bike rack??
Everything is buffalo around here.
More about that on another day.



Inside were excellent exhibits on the natural and social
history of the park.

This chart of the importance of the buffalo
to the local Native Americans painted a
clear picture of a no waste society and made
it very clear how important the buffalo was to them.
Click on the picture to read it, you’ll be amazed.



We learned that over 70% of the park is forested
and 95% of that is ponderosa pine although there
are 13 different tree species here.   Those pines
are why these look like the “black hills”.


We found out about the 109 Mile
George Mickelson Bike Trail a Rails to Trails
which runs on the old Burlington-Northern
rail line through the heart of the Black Hills.
The railroad once served the Gold Mining towns
between Deadwood and Edgemont.  The
railroad abandoned the line in 1983 and now
bicyclists peddle through forests, prairies, tunnels
and bridges covering almost every major habitat in the Black Hills.

Driving the Custer Loop 032

Got some information for you Bill and Nancy
and for you Lynda about the annual 3 day Bike Trail Trek
which starts today from the Custer, South Dakota
Visitors Center.


I also learned about Charles Badger Clark, South
Dakota’s first poet laureate, “the Cowboy Poet”.
He lived in a cabin in Custer State Park for the last
30 years of his life.  I was sorry to hear that his
cabin “Badger Hole” was only open from
Memorial Day to Labor Day.
I would love to have seen where this man lived and
his famed library.  Apparently he was quite
an “individual” in dress and other ways.
He wore whipped chord riding breeches tucked into
tall leather boots EVERY day.
Sounded like a very interesting guy!


AND I found another book I’d love to read.
Compiled by the Federal Writer’s Project
of the Works Progress Administration
in 1938.  It’s a Guide to South Dakota.


Driving the Custer Loop 035


Great Visitors Center!

We set off to “view the grand scenery by car”
as stated in the visitors guide you are given when you
pay your $15 entrance fee for one vehicle for one week.
You can get a year’s pass for $28.  Which is
definitely what I’ll do when I come back to see
more of South Dakota’s State Parks.
BUT that would be $15 or $28 PER VEHICLE.
RV AND toad.


First we went up Iron Mountain Road where we
went through tunnels and across “pigtail bridges”.
The road was completed in 1933.
They are still engineering marvels.



Peter Norbert, first State Senator and then Governor,
was the force behind much of what is Custer State Park.
He wanted a rustic look to the road but the elevation
drop presented complex engineering problems.
The bridge surfaces are neither straight, level nor flat
and the rustic log work has great variation in quality.
But they are still here.


Driving the Custer Loop 052


I don’t think the curves in the bridges can really
be seen from any of these photographs.


Driving the Custer Loop 063


Driving the Custer Loop 064


Several parts of the road had split one lane sections.
I thought it was a great idea to keep from
destroying so much of the environment
and to limit the alteration to the terrain.


Driving the Custer Loop 053


Here’s some of the scenery along the road.


Driving the Custer Loop 044




We stopped for lunch along the way.



Nice roadside picnic area.
Here’s the view.

Driving the Custer Loop 040


Saw some really wonderful rocks on
the way across the top of the drive.


Driving the Custer Loop 067

Driving the Custer Loop 070


Driving the Custer Loop 074


I imagine you might recognize the face carved in
one of the rocks above.
We did not stop at Mount Rushmore for
many reasons.  Among them
1) we had seen the faces all along the drive
before we got there.   Norbert set up the tunnels
on Iron Mountain Road to frame the faces.
2) They have turned a lot of this National Monument over
to a “concessionaire” who has put in
tons of concrete and an $11
parking fee to visit a National Monument.
I strongly object.  And
3) I am not fond of the whole idea of carving
people’s faces into beautiful rock formations
no matter whose faces they are.


I try to vote with my dollars for the things
which I want to see continue.  In movies and
their prices and National Monuments and theirs,

As we started down the Needles Highway
we came to the Sylvan Lake Area.
We checked out the Sylvan Campground.
All along the way we had been stopping in the
campgrounds as we came to them.
Custer State Park has 8 tent/RV campgrounds
and one horse campground.
All but one of them has electric but they
don’t all have spaces big enough for large RVs.
Sylvan is on my list of places to consider but
there aren’t many sites we’d fit in that
are also level.  Great place for tents though.


Each “lodge” in the park seems to have a lake
which, like the lodge, was originally created by the CCC.

Stockade at the beginning of our drive
and closest to the town of Custer
and Sylvan where we stopped now are my favorite lakes.
I love the rocks in, on and along the water here.




So I went out for a stroll.  LOL



and I got about this far and turned around
since I had to go back that far as well
That was my hike for today.




But David went all the way around on the trail
and this is what he found.

















I wondered when I saw these if you must
be as thin as he is to take this path.








I wondered when I saw these pictures, what
this area had looked like before the creation of the lake.












Looks like a super picnic spot
IF you can get there.  :-)








And a great bench to sit on and contemplate
the beauty.



At the end of the loop around the lake,
here’s what was going on.



Pretty nice setting I’d say.



While David had been gone,
I’d been watching the progression of the wedding.
I thought it was mighty nice of them to
give me something to do while I waited
other than sit and read a book.


Driving the Custer Loop 097

Watching the 5 attendants in HIGH heels walk
on the path through the bushes and trees was
very entertaining.  Only one took off her shoes
and carried them.   The others tip toed along
and I thought of all the ankle problems these
gals may be getting themselves in for walking around
on their toes all the time.  :-)
The bride must have been in flats, she
had no trouble at all.

Driving the Custer Loop 098


David got back before the actual wedding.
Too bad.
So we had to be on our way.

Driving the Custer Loop 100


The Needles highway was next on our
agenda but I think I’ll make the second half
of our day another post.


Check back.  It was a great afternoon
and evening.
Right up to and into DARK!


  1. Sylvan Lake is one of my favorite places in the whole world. I love the Balck Hills, wish I was there now.

  2. That brings back nice memories of our trip last September. I loved Custer State Park.

  3. That sounds like one great bike trail... Can't wait to get the info!!

    We did see Custer State Park on our first trip around the country. But didn't slow down long enough to find out about the rail trail ;o(( It has already been added to our TODOS list!!

  4. Beautiful place. I visited with my mom 30 years ago.

  5. We plan to visit that area next summer. I've always heard it was beautiful and your pictures prove that.

    Gorgeous place for a wedding!

  6. Loved that area, so scenic and sort of wild! Lots to see. The bridges and loop de loops were great!

  7. We did a guided tour of this area. . .it was so great to see your pics, and be reminded how much we enjoyed it.


  8. OK Littletwin Brokenankle (we keep adding to your Indian name ;o)),

    What in the world are you doing putting weight on the ankle?!?! I really hope that was an optical illusion!!

    Please behave or we may have to ground you to the motorhome ;o))

    I know it is really tough to behave... Tallertwin Brokenshoulder :o)))))

  9. Are all humans drawn to water as much as you are? It looks beautiful there.

  10. I believe most of those WPA books are available as reprints now. They are a wonderful resource for state history and geography.

  11. Great cowboy hat on the groom! Looks like it was a pretty hike - sorry you had to miss it, Mama. Glad you could take pictures, Pops :)


Your comments are the best part of this blog for me.
I LOVE hearing from you!