South Dakota Road Trip – Custer State Park, the Wildlife Loop Road & Needles Highway

July 1, 2013 at 7:40 pm Leave a comment

State Game Lodge

Recently I met my friend Karen and we took a road trip through the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota.  As often as I’ve traveled, and many times driven through Montana, North Dakota & Minnesota, I’ve never actually gone to South Dakota.  Well, I decided it was time!  Oh my gosh, I don’t know what took me so long.  It was such a fantastic trip!

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We stayed in a little cabin at the State Game Lodge in Custer State Park.  It was the perfect setting!  Just rustic enough to feel like we were in the great outdoors, but with all the comforts of home.

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The State Game Lodge is famous for its presidential visitors. It served as the Summer White House for President Calvin Coolidge in 1927 and was visited by President Dwight D. Eisenhower for several Days in 1953. It was built in 1920, and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.  It’s a beautiful stone and wood lodge with only seven rooms in the actual lodge.  We were fortunate enough to get to take a quick peek at them, including the rooms where Eisenhower and Coolidge slept during their stays.

Eisenhower Room (photo taken from Tripadvisor.com)

Eisenhower Room (photo taken from Tripadvisor.com)

A friend of Karen and mine that we met while working in Alaska several years ago, as well as her sister and husband, were working at the Lodge so we got a chance to catch up.

Mary, Karen and I

Mary, Karen and I

Wildlife Loop Road

The three of us took several of the scenic roads around the Custer State Park.  The first was the Wildlife Loop Road.  Boy did we ever see the wildlife!

Buffalo!

Buffalo!

With their new calves

With their new calves

Note the number on him

Note the number on him

Every year in September more than 1,000 buffalo are rounded up.  I’m sure it’s a spectacular sight!  This is a critical management tool in maintaining a strong and healthy herd.  After weeding out the older and weaker males, the young buffalo are branded with the year they were born.  The buffalo above has a 5 branded on him, showing that he was born in 2005.

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One of the most colorful characters along the Wildlife Loop are the band of free-loading burros.  When we saw them there were about 30 grazing in a beautiful meadow right along the road.  They were coming right up to people in hopes for a snack or two.

Pronghorn Antaloupe

Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn Antelope

Big Horn Sheep

Big Horn Sheep

Prairie Dog

Prairie Dog

We saw hundreds and hundreds of Prairie dogs and also saw lots of Mule and White tail deer.  We even saw a turtle crossing the road!  How random is that :-)!

Needles Highway

The Needles Highway is 14 miles of narrow, windy roads and tunnels through unique high granite “needles” and pine-covered mountains.

Granite "Needles"

Granite “Needles”

 

Beautiful Pine covered mountains

Beautiful Pine covered mountains

 

The Needle’s Eye with its signature ‘eye’ formed by countless years of rain, ice and wind and the Needle’s Eye tunnel were two of the highlights on the road.

Needle's Eye

Needle’s Eye

Mary and at the entrance to the Needle's Eye tunnel

Mary and I at the entrance to the Needle’s Eye tunnel

And the picturesque Sylvan Lake and Sylvan Lake tunnel were amazing too!  It was so much fun driving through these tiny granite tunnels!

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake tunnel

Sylvan Lake tunnel

Tomorrow we head out to see more of South Dakota and the Badlands!

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