South Dakota - land of the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, the Badlands and Custer State Park. This is western South Dakota and it is beautiful in the Black Hills. Lots of pine trees and it smells like Lake Tahoe.
Our campground in the Black Hills is Rafter J Bar. It is spread out in the
mountains with a pool, horses to ride and hiking trails to the National Forest. 10
minutes from Mount Rushmore, 5 minutes from Crazy Horse and a little more to the bison in
Custer Park. We're off to explore!
The Badlands of South Dakota cover 240,000 acres. Lots of this land has formations like the Grand Canyon, although it is more whitish in color and a lot younger. Patrick climbed out to check it out.
Some of the areas do bear a likeness to the Painted Desert too. On the west side of the park there are areas devoted to restoring the prairie. Only 5% of the prairie land is left. There are bison grazing free.
Here the ranger is talking about the fossils in park. There are fossils all around the park. They have one path where you can view a variety of the carnivores and herbivores who once roamed here.
Here is the Crazy Horse Memorial. It is very dramatic. The four Mount Rushmore heads would fit in the head of Crazy Horse.
It has taken 50 years to get this far with no public funds. In fact the sculptor Korczak turned down 10 million dollars from the government twice. He died in 1982 but his family carries the torch and supervises the sculpting.
All Aboard!! This is the bus to the bottom of the sculpture. They run on tight budgets here. The visitor center is nicely done. There are a lot of tributes to the Indian way of life. They plan to build a North America Indian University and Medical Training Center in the long term.
It is very peaceful by the monument. When it is completed it will be Crazy Horse on his horse pointing out over the Black Hills. It will be 641 feet long and 563 feet high. There is a story of a white man asking Crazy Horse "Where are your lands now?" Crazy Horse pointed and said "My lands are where my dead lie buried."
There are no actual pictures of Crazy Horse. The monument is suppose to be a carving to the spirit of Crazy Horse and his people.
Custer State Park is just east of Crazy Horse and south of Mount Rushmore via some crazy roads.
It is beautiful. There are lots of campgrounds here as well as old lodges built in the early 1900's. It is a large state park with heavily forested areas as well as large meadows.
There is also a wild life loop through the park which is famous for it's view of bison, big horn sheep, wild burros, deer and prairie dogs.
Burros rule! Here the burros are very friendly and very tame. There is a jeep safari ride which takes you through the park. They feed the burros bread.
Hello - Got any food??
Show me the buffalo! A wild buffalo chase!! You can tour in your car through the wild life loop. Several roads are gravel. We had completed almost the whole loop and saw only 1 bison.
Then Mom talked to this lady who saw a bunch at the other end of the park the day before. We headed back over this gravel and bumpy one lane road.
We saw a ranger - she said, "Oh they've been spotted outside the loop today on Hwy 87 (still in the park)."
Two hours after the start on the hunt......Jackpot!! Hundreds of them crossing the road and stopping traffic.
We also saw big horned sheep on this road and some more deer.
These guys are more agile than you think for 2000 pounds. The herd had moved 8 miles from the day before (at least). They have signs through the park "Do not approach buffalo. They can be dangerous."
They can run up to 30 miles an hour, climb mountains and leap over normal ranger fences.
On the road to Rushmore! Less than two feet to spare. Some tunnels were too low for our RV. There were also some great wooden trestles to cross on the way. This road is often closed in winter.
"Hey Mommy I see the four faces!" was the cry from the back of the RV. Mount Rushmore is stunning.
They have just completed a $56 million update which includes a new amphitheater, visitor center and parking garage. It is nicely done.
We arrived right before the night show. There were at least 2000 people waiting for the show.
The Ranger did a nice show which was followed by a movie called Four Faces on the Mountain. Then they turn the spotlights on the faces for an hour as everyone headed out.
Our home away from home. This park is really nice and we would all like to come back.
There are hundreds of RVs and many public and private campgrounds in the area. There are not so many hotels. Camping definitely seems to be the best option.
Here is the pool and spa. You can stay in sites pretty well secluded by trees. We chose to be in the more open sights so we could get cable.
I know not really roughing it but we wanted to route on the Giants. And they lost!! The A's have been getting good press around here though!
The horse rides were a big hit! They had short rides for younger children and then an hour long ride into the National Forest for the bigger kids.
Colleen wasn't sure at first - but then she loved it!