My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Roamin' with the Buffalo

Dateline: August 30. Hill city, SD

Yesterday I moved my camp to Wind Cave National Park. I'll write about it more in a later post.  I lucked out with the camping fees - only $6 with my golden age pass. (Found a lesser level campsite by the Forest Service that charges $24 a night because they are so close to Mt. Rushmore.) But mainly I've been finding views and wildlife throughout Custer State Park, the largest state park I've found.  It adjoins Wind Cave NP and I had to buy a 7 day pass for $15  just to drive through it and use various of it's day use areas. But it does  have swimming, lots of buffalo and other wildlife and fantastic views. And the north side of it is almost to Mt. Rushmore.  I also drove by Mt. Rushmore this morning but decided it wasn't worth $33 to park and visit that monument so just made two stops to take pictures.

I spent several hours yesterday and today driving throughout the two parks. Below are a few of my favorite pictures from those trips.

The first and second things that caught my eye were prairie dogs and a big buffalo herd. There are several herds in the area - Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park, and many bulls are found alone in other areas. This herd was visible as I arrived at the park. Prairie dog towns can take up several acres and attract the buffalo to the new, tender grass the prairie dogs cultivate.

Prairie dogs are an important component of prairie ecosystems - provide food and shelter to other amimals
A few of a large herd of buffalo
My afternoon drive came to a screeching halt for several minutes by buffalo who preferred the road

This calf passed my car while I was stopped by buffalo

Found this peaceful threesome at a Forest Service group camp.
This jackrabbit flew off when he saw me
 There is an apparent subspecies of buffalo that must be breeding in the town of Custer, SD.  They are very tame and allow you to approach them closely with no signs of aggression or fear. And they are much more colorful than the species.

Each buffalo was painted by a different artist and with a different theme

I think this was about buffalo hunting

I didn't read the theme of this buffalo

This buffalo was painted in a star theme

Snack time for twins

A pronghorn buck

Custer State Park has an entire magazine-sized booklet about the park. It says the burros ae descendants from the herd that once hauled visitors to the top of Harney peak. Now people bring the food and bread and pet them and they  race over to the cars. I'm hoping to spend more time with the herd because they are foaling now and I hope to get a picture of a newborn.

Panhandling donkey
 Both the National and State Parks have areas that look like this.  I think this was taken just about at the border between the two parks.

Sunset View
These next  pictures were all taken Friday morning on my way to Mt. Rushmore.  I ended up taking a very long way but had a wonderful trip.

Hole in the Wall - I checked - not a through passage
Breakfast time

One of several tiny tunnels in the area

Road View

Some of beautiful formations along Needles Highway Scenic Drive
 There is a terrible pine beetle infestation in these hills. The brown color is from dead pine trees. Every area in under an extreme fire warning. The best sign I saw about fire warnings was " Extreme fire danger - don't even fart in the woods".

View from the top of the Needles Road

Intrepid Biker
Sylvan Lake - one of several lakes in Custer Park
Finally got to see elk after looking for then for two days - this is probably less than half the herd and all very distant
And after sunset, I got a very distant and dark picture of two bucks.

This looks like a painting just before sunset

Friday's sunset over the park.

There is a lot of hiking in the Black Hills National Forest, Custer State Park, and Wind Cave National Park. I'm hoping to get to do some of that yet today and will definitely be hiking the next few days.Some of it will be underground in the 120 mile long cave. (But the trips are mostly about 1.5 miles in length.)