PIERRE, S.D. - Starting Sept. 26, the Black Hills and Custer State Park come alive with events ranging from arts festivals and historic reenactments to chili cook-offs and old-time fiddlers, all centered around the annual roundup of the park’s nearly 1,500 bison.
“It’s been amazing to watch this event grow in popularity over the years. The Buffalo Roundup really showcases the beauty of the Black Hills and is one of our most popular events during the season,” said Richard Benda, Secretary for the Department of Tourism and State Development.
The event has captured international attention due to its unique nature and historic, western flavor. Enjoy the action as park workers in pickups and riders on horseback herd buffalo past viewing areas into the corral area. You can feel the ground tremble from the thunder of their hooves as they stampede past. The sites, sounds and flavors create a must-see event.
The roundup is the first step in preparing the herd for the November Buffalo Auction. Custer State Park can typically support about 1,000 animals over the winter, so surplus buffalo are sold at a late-year auction. Bison, which once faced extinction, now number 500,000 strong across North America, and Custer State Park is home to one of the largest publicly-owned herds.
“The combination of watching the leaves change, the crisp autumn air and the Old West experience keep people coming back year after year,” said Melissa Bump, director of the South Dakota Office of Tourism. “Many people are finding that fall is a perfect time to experience all that South Dakota has to offer, and a family-friendly location like Custer State Park is the place to do it.”
Travelers and visitors wishing to make travel arrangements or find a travel package designed for them will discover an invaluable resource in the travel planner feature on www.TravelSD.com.
- At the beginning of the 19th century, an estimated 60 million American bison roamed the prairies. By the late 1800s, there were only a few dozen buffalo left in the United States.
- Two South Dakotans are credited with saving the species. Rancher Fredrick Dupree saved five calves from a buffalo hunt in 1881. Over the next decade, he grew the herd to more than 70 head, which he sold to Fort Pierre rancher James "Scotty" Philip. Philip increased the herd to more than 1,000 head. The free-roaming bison in Custer State Park are direct descendants of Philip’s herd.
- In the 1940s, the Custer State Park herd numbered around 2,500, but the bison were over-grazing the land. That’s why every year, the bison are rounded up and the herd size is adjusted for the available grassland that will support them. The animals are also sorted, branded and vaccinated.
- Buyers from all over the United States and Canada have purchased bison from Custer State Park and have started herds of their own.
- Bison have been clocked at speeds of 50 mph.
- The word “Tatanka,” made popular in the movie “Dances with Wolves,” which was filmed in South Dakota, means “big or large thing” in Lakota.
Wanda Goodman, Media & PR Manager of the SD Office of Tourism, 605-773-3301, firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Pugsley, Visitor Services Coordinator for Custer State Park, 605-255-4515, email@example.com
* All photos must be credited to the South Dakota Office of Tourism.