Custer State Park

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Custer State Park is a South Dakota State Park and wildlife reserve in the Black Hills, United States. The park is South Dakota's largest and first state park, named after Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer. The area originally started out as sixteen sections, but was later changed into one block of land because of the challenges of the terrain.[2] The park began to grow rapidly in the 1920s and gained new land. During the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps built miles of roads, laid out parks and campgrounds, and built three dams that set up a future of water recreation at the park. In 1964 an additional 22,900 acres (93 km2) were added to the park.[2] The park covers an area of over 71,000 acres (287 km2) of hilly terrain and is home to many wild animals.[3]

Pronghorn at the Wildlife loop road

The park is home to a famous herd of 1500 free roaming bison.[3] Elk, coyotes, mule deer, white tailed deer, mountain goats, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, river otters, pronghorn, cougars, and feral burros also inhabit the park. The park is famous for its scenery, its scenic drives (Needles Highway and the wildlife loop), with views of the bison herd and prairie dog towns. This park is easily accessible by road from Rapid City. Other nearby attractions are Wind Cave National Park, Mount Rushmore, Jewel Cave National Monument, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Badlands National Park.

Black Hills in Custer State Park

Annual bison roundup[edit]

The park has an annual bison roundup and auction in September, in which the bison in the park (more than 1,000) are rounded up, with several hundred sold at auction so that the remaining number of animals will be compatible with the rangeland forage.

The annual roundups began in 1965; more than 10,000 people now attend each one.[4]


The Peter Norbeck Center is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is located on U.S. Route 16A in Custer. Exhibits focus on the park's natural history and cultural heritage, and include wildlife dioramas, a CCC bunkhouse and a gold prospecting display. The center is named for South Dakota Governor and Senator Peter Norbeck. Many of the park's naturalist programs begin at the center.

Badger Hole, also known as Badger Clark Historical Site, was the home of Charles Badger Clark (1883–1957), who was named South Dakota's first Poet Laureate in 1937[5] and was noted for his cowboy poetry. The house is maintained as it was when Clark lived there. Visitors can tour the home and hike the adjacent Badger Clark Historic Trail.

Opened in May of 2016, Custer State Park's visitor center offers guests a plethora of information on the animals of the park. Visitors can also see a 20-minute film about the park.

Begging Burros[edit]

Begging Burros

Begging Burros is a name used to refer to the donkeys in Custer State Park. For many years, these donkeys have earned this nickname as they approach various passing cars through the park begging for food. After earning this reputation, the burros have become famous, now garnering the attention of most travelers through the park inside and outside of cars. Many people bring food to the park specifically for the purpose of feeding these animals.

The Begging Burros inhabit one area of the park upon a hill where approximately 15 of them try to obtain any food they can. Custer State Park's roadway is blocked off by these animals so use caution and patience.

In popular culture[edit]

Various movies have been filmed in Custer State Park, including The Last Hunt (1956), How the West Was Won (1962) and A Man Called Horse (1970).[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Custer State Park". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 1980-02-13. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
  2. ^ a b Thune, John. "Custer State Park". Local Legacies. The Library of Congress. Retrieved 2007-10-18.
  3. ^ a b "Custer State Park". Archived from the original on 2007-10-24. Retrieved 2007-10-18.
  4. ^ "Organizers: More than 10K spectators expected at annual buffalo roundup in Custer State Park". Washington Post. Associated Press. September 23, 2012.
  5. ^ Badger Clark Memorial Society
  6. ^ Barth, Jack (1991). Roadside Hollywood: The Movie Lover's State-By-State Guide to Film Locations, Celebrity Hangouts, Celluloid Tourist Attractions, and More. Contemporary Books. Pages 88-89. ISBN 9780809243266.

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