Buffalo Bison Custer State Park South Dakota

South Dakota State Parks,

No bull — yes bull

South Dakota, at least in western South Dakota, has several very nice state parks.


Some friends of ours last week had a close encounter with nature. A buffalo took exception to their car, and in true buffalo manner, challenged them to a head butting contest, which is their custom.  As expected the buffalo won the contest and then wandered off satisfied that the point was made.  Our friends now have some damage to contend with, the buffalo was unharmed. 

Buffalo, yes that is what they call them in South Dakota, and have done so since French trappers so named them not finding the Lakota word “tatonka” European enough.  The more accepted term (except in Wyoming and South Dakota) is now American Bison because their closest relatives are the European Bison.  The introduction movie at Custer State Park didn’t mention the word bison.

European Bison are mostly forest dwellers and our buffalo prefer the grasslands. More grass, more to eat. This convenience suits the American Buffalo quite well because eating is a primary concern among buffalo.  Wild European Bison were wiped out more than 250 years ago but are making a slow comeback due to breading efforts.  American counterparts were hanging on strong and wild, well into the 1870s. Market hunters, looking mostly for the furs, were aided by the newly established railroads, needing something to haul to the east, nearly wiped them out.  (Buffalo Bill – no one has ever called him Bison Bill, is the most famous of the market hunters turned showman.)

Buffalo make things exciting

The now recovering herd started in Yellowstone and has been spreading.  Even buffalo destined for dinner tables are wild and prone to head butting contests, with other buffalo and anything else they find in their way.  I think a few more parks might opt to include small herds of the buffalo just to keep campers on their toes. Buffalo make things exciting. They are dangerous and should not in any circumstances be approached, even in a car. One of the problems is that buffalo don’t have the same rules and sometimes approach you.  My grandkids had to promise never to put a baby buffalo calf into the back of their car as part of their pledge to become junior rangers.   

Angostura State Park

We are staying at Angostura one of the South Dakota State Parks, an easy drive to the Black Hills.  “Angostura” means narrows in Spanish, which the Army Corps of Engineers rightly concluded that the Cheyenne River had a readymade dam site in the narrows just to the north of here. The Black Hills have provided nearly gin-clear water to this reservoir and this has turned into a prime recreation area splash zone for recreation seekers.  We leave here tomorrow, and then another week in South Dakota just north of Sturgis and as soon as massive numbers of Harley Davidsons arrive we will head to North Dakota. 

We went to Mt. Rushmore two years ago and given the number of summer visitors, won’t be participating this year.  We attempted to go to Wind Cave National Park but learned ten minutes after arrival that it will be closed for the rest of the summer. Custer State Park is where we had our closest encounter with the tatonka. Hot Springs is a nice town but Custer is better.  We just had a thunderstorm, with lots of wind, very little rain and that cooled things down enough for an evening bike ride.

Here is a link to the google map for the area.

Link to our 2019 Route.

Link to our route Colorado to Minot North Dakota

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5 thoughts on “South Dakota State Parks,”

  1. I love that area! Did you feed the burros at Custer State Park? It is SO-O much fun and the park rangers don’t care. They just sit in their cars and watch. If you go back to Custer, take carrots, apples and cookies. The burros gather around and are very gentle with the possible exception of a nudge because you aren’t fast enough with the next goodie!

  2. The only thing better than summer on the Great Plains is springtime. You see if you can find some wild plums to gather. They are one of my fondest memories of the North Dakota badlands.

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