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Favorite Things: Top Five in Custer State Park

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CUSTER, S.D. – Few truly wild places remain in this country, but 71,000-acre Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota is certainly one of them. The park, located just south of Mount Rushmore, was initially established in 1919 to help restore wildlife populations. The restoration efforts have paid off, and spring is one of the best times of the year to see the results.

"On any given day I can look out my window and see buffalo, big horn sheep, deer, turkey all at the same time," said Craig Pugsley, Visitor Services Coordinator for the Park. "If you enjoy watching and photographing wildlife there is no better time than spring time in Custer State Park."

Pugsley offers his "top five" things to do in the park this spring.

5. Scenic Drives - Cruise the 18 mile Wildlife Loop Road, the 14 mile Needles Highway or the famous Iron Mountain Road.

4. Spring Fishing - When the ice goes out, the Park's four lakes and streams offer up some excellent fishing for rainbow, brown, and brook trout.

3. Outdoor Adventure – Custer State Park features over 60 miles of hiking / biking trails, unlimited horse back riding opportunities, and world class rock climbing.

2. Lodging and Camping - Camping and lodging is available year round and it’s not unusual to find those park critters right outside your tent or lodge room window.

1. Watchable Wildlife - Travel the road ways and see bison 1,200 head strong, elk, deer, pronghorn, big horn sheep, turkeys or even the park's infamous begging burros.

Fast Facts:

  • The annual open house weekend is scheduled for May 15, 16, and 17 and features free entrance and free fishing along with a myriad of other scheduled events.
  • Visitor Center and full service camping opens April 1. Creekside Lodge is open all year and the four other lodges open May 1.
  • Home of the Historic State Game Lodge, Summer White House for President Calvin Coolidge and visited by President Dwight Eisenhower.



Wanda Goodman, (605) 773-3301,

Craig Pugsley, (605) 255-4515,

* All photos must be credited to the South Dakota Office of Tourism

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