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Custer State Park




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General Information

Description - The park boasts scenic drives such as the Needles Highway (SD 87), which twists and turns its way past towering rock formations and through narrow tunnels. At the end of one tunnel stands the Needles Eye, a granite spire with a slit only 3 to 4 feet wide but reaching 30 to 40 feet in the air. History and culture also abound. Walk the banks of French Creek, where Custer’s expedition first discovered gold in 1874. Take in a theater performance at the Black Hills Playhouse. Or, visit the log cabin that was home to Badger Clark, South Dakota’s first poet laureate.

Attractions - Custer State Park features three major scenic drives; Needles Highway (SD Highway 87 between Sylvan Lake and Legion Lake), Iron Mountain Road (US Highway 16A) to make up the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway. Visitors may also encounter one of the world's largest publicly-owned, free- roaming bison herds, numbering around 1,500. The last weekend of each September, wranglers and rangers round up the herd at the culmination of a weekend of festivities and entertainment. Weekend events include the Buffalo Roundup Arts Festival where more than 150 exhibitors offer Western and North American-themed arts and crafts as well as South Dakota made products, followed by the actual Buffalo Roundup on Monday. Another attraction at Custer State Park is Sylvan Lake. This lake is considered the “Crown Jewel” of Custer State Park in the Black Hills of western South Dakota. The mountain lake sits at the base of Harney Peak, the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains. Hikers can access the trailhead for the three-mile trip to the summit. Other lake activities include swimming, paddleboating, fishing and picnicking. Sylvan Lake Lodge overlooks the lake and offers cabins, lodge rooms and a dining room.

Recreation - Favorite outdoor activities include hiking 7,242-foot Harney Peak, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, fishing, chuckwagon suppers and jeep rides to see the bison. Birding is also popular. More than 186 species live or migrate through the park, and western and eastern species often overlap. Custer State Park offers seven campgrounds with 335 individual campsites and 37 camper cabins. The camper cabins are basic cabins and are located in Game Lodge, Blue Bell and French Creek Horse Campgrounds. The cabins have electricity, heat, air conditioning and a table. Campers must provide all their own gear. The campgrounds are scattered throughout the park: in pine forest, next to mountain streams and adjacent to mountain lakes. Some sites offer electricity. Call 1-800-710-2267 or go online at www.CampSD.com for reservations. (Some sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis only.)

Climate - South Dakota has an interior continental climate, with hot summers, extremely cold winters, high winds, and periodic droughts. The normal January temperature is 12°F (–11°C); the normal July temperature, 74°F (23°C). The record low temperature is –58°F (–50°C), set at McIntosh on 17 February 1936; the record high, 120°F (49°C), at Gannvalley on 5 July 1936. Normal annual precipitation (1971–2000) averaged 24.7 in (62.7 cm) in Sioux Falls in the southeast, decreasing to less than 13 in (33 cm) in the northwest. Sioux Falls receives an average of 41 in (104 cm) of snow per year.

Location - Custer State Park is located in the south-western part of the state in the Black Hills. The park can be accessed using highway 385 or highway 16.


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Filed By: TravelSouthDakota (Pierre, SD)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Scenic Drives & Wildlife ... Custer State Park features three major scenic drives. Needles Highway (SD Highway 87 between Sylvan Lake and Legion Lake) is a favorite with sightseers and motorcycle enthusiasts. The road winds through small granite tunnels and pine forest under a vista of granite spires called “Needles”, popular with rock climbers. Needles Highway joins Iron Mountain Road (US 16A) to make up the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway. Iron Mountain Road showcases three granite tunnels that frame Mount Rushmore in the distance and corkscrew-shaped pigtail bridges built in the 1930s. The 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road winds around the southern end of the park through the habitats of antelope, prairie dogs, deer, wild turkeys, elk, bighorn sheep and burros. Visitors may also encounter one of the world’s largest publicly-owned, free-roaming bison herds, numbering around 1,500. The last weekend of each September, wranglers and rangers round up the herd at the culmination of a weekend of festivities and entertainment. Weekend events include the Buffalo Roundup Arts Festival where over 150 exhibitors offer Western, North American and South Dakota made products, followed by the actual Buffalo Roundup on Monday.


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