Annual Buffalo Roundup Up: Custer, South Dakota
Is a Buffalo Roundup on your bucket list? It’s worth seeing the Buffalo Roundup at least once in your lifetime.
If you grew up herding cattle, this Roundup will seem familiar, only with larger animals and a super-sized crowd.
If you have never herded cattle, this Annual Roundup will be an amazing event for you.
Each year about 1300 buffalo are rounded up as part of this event.
Friday, September 29, 2017
Annual Buffalo Round Up and Arts Festival in Custer State Park in Custer, South Dakota, south of Mt. Rushmore. Click on bold links for additional helpful information.
12 Roundup Tips
- Parking lots open at 6:15 AM & close at 9:00 AM. A park entrance license is not required on Friday-the day of the annual Buffalo Roundup.
- Handicapped parking is available in both the North and South lots. These spots are closest to the viewing area. This means, last out after the Roundup. It can take an hour to get out of the parking lot. Restrooms are available near the parking lots.
- Roundup begins at 9:30 AM. Depending on where you sit and view, it could be between 10:30-11:00 AM before you get a glimpse of the buffalo.
- Arrive early; there is a lot of traffic and it moves slowly.
- Pack a chair or blanket, rain gear and/or sun screen and a light jacket for early morning temperatures. Bring binoculars, a camera and bug spray. If you’re not a people watcher, bring cards or games. There’s a lot of wait time. Interact with fellow viewers; many from all over the USA.
- Pack a cooler of light snacks and water, or non-alcoholic beverages.
- Respect fellow viewers. If you arrive late, don’t expect premium seating. And certainly don’t stand in front of guests who’ve been there hours ahead of you.
- Breakfast for a fee is served at 6:15 AM and lunch at 2 PM. Be prepared for long lines. Have cash ready.
- Plan your travel route in advance. The roadways are pitch black in the early morning hours. If you’d rather leave the driving to professionals, book a shuttle ride. Check with your lodging accommodations for shuttle referrals. There are many options.
- Pets not allowed. If you bring one, it must be kept in the vehicle.
- Keep it mind that while this is a public viewing, the buffalo are actually herded into the area and placed into corrals for the annual testing, branding and sorting. This activity starts at 1 PM and goes until about 3 PM. You are invited to view this.
- Make sure your gas tank is full. There is a lot of slow-moving traffic both in and out of the viewing areas.
The Arts Festival is part of the Annual Buffalo Roundup. 2017 dates are: September 28-30.
Fine arts and crafts are on display. Entertainers perform under a big tent.
Food, including buffalo meat, is served. Have plenty of cash available.
All events and vendors are across from the Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center located along US Highway 16A near the Historic State Game Lodge.
One can spend a week or more in the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota. There’s plenty to see and do. Add these side trips to your visit. If you prefer to use a guide, contact Golden Circle Tours in Custer or Affordable Adventures in Rapid City. [I’ve used both companies with great success.]
Drive through Custer State Park & Take in:
Hike around the lake. Kayak. Stare at it. Arrive early in the morning and watch the sunrise. It’s a must-see spot while in the area.
Needles Highway: South Dakota Highway 87
The Needles of the Black Hills of South Dakota are a region of eroded granite pillars, towers, and spires within Custer State Park. This National Scenic Byway was completed in 1922 and includes 14 miles of sharp turns, low tunnels and impressive granite spires. The road lies within the 73,000 acre Custer State Park, just 30 miles south of Rapid City.
A herd of 1,300 bison roams freely throughout the park, often stopping traffic along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road. The herd is one of the largest publicly owned herds in the world.
Besides bison, the park is home to wildlife such as pronghorn antelope, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, wild turkeys, and a band of friendly burros.
Address for GPS:
13000 Highway 244
Building 31, Suite 1
Keystone, SD 57751
Mountain Time Hours are:
8:00AM-5:00 PM October-May. 8:00AM-10:00 PM June-mid-August. 8:00AM-9:00 PM mid-August-September.
There is NO entrance fee but parking is currently $11 per vehicle.
Spearfish is in the northern area of the Hills. And the Canyon on US Highway 14 A is the #1 attraction there. Bridal Veil Falls, Roughlock Falls and Spearfish Falls are must-see when driving through this wooded area.
Hill City is known as the “Heart of the Black Hills.” It is found between two of the world’s largest and most famous sculptures: Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse.
Visit the wineries, art galleries, museums, restaurants, retail stores in Hill City. A favorite is Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City.
Address for GPS:
Crazy Horse Memorial
12151 Avenue of the Chiefs
Crazy Horse, SD 57730-8900
The Mission of Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation is to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians. It does not receive federal or state funding.
The Legends in Light Laser Show here is worth every penny and every minute. Plan to go early to visit the museums and gift shop. You can watch from your vehicle or from benches in an outdoor viewing area.
Additional tours are available. Details are on their website.
Devils Tower National Monument
Devils Tower is an astounding geologic feature that protrudes 867 feet out of the rolling prairie surrounding the Black Hills. It is considered sacred to the Northern Plains Indians and other tribes. Hundreds of parallel cracks make it one of the finest crack climbing areas in North America.
The Monument is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and every day of the year. The visitor center and the Devils Tower Natural History Association Bookstore are open daily from 8AM-7PM, with the exception of December 25th and January 1st.
The 2017 vehicle pass is $15.00.
Address for GPS:
25216 Ben Reifel Road
Interior, SD 57750
Open all year, 24 hours a day, except for weather closures.
$20 per automobile-good for 7 days.
The Lakota people were the first to call this place “mako sica” or “land bad.” Extreme temperatures, lack of water, and the exposed rugged terrain led to this name.
Today, the term badlands has a more geologic definition. Badlands form when soft sedimentary rock is extensively eroded in a dry climate. The park’s typical scenery of sharp spires, gullies, and ridges is a premier example of badlands topography.
Its dramatic landscapes span layered rock formations, steep canyons and towering spires. Bison, bighorn sheep and prairie dogs inhabit its sprawling grasslands. The Badlands Loop Road (Highway 240) winds past scenic lookouts. Several trails begin near the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. The Fossil Exhibit Trail is a boardwalk with displays on fossils uncovered in the park.
To fully experience most of what the Badlands has to offer, it takes two days. To drive through the park and stop at a few overlooks, it takes about two hours. Here are a few highlights you won’t want to miss & the minimum time needed. Taken from Badlands National Park website FAQs.
• Drive the Highway 240 Badlands Loop Road (60 minutes if you do not stop at any overlooks)
• Stop at a minimum of two scenic overlooks (30 minutes)
• Drive the Sage Creek Rim Road to see animals and additional views (30 to 60 minutes – depending on distance covered)
• Hike a trail or explore the back-country (variable time/distances – 30 minutes to all day)
• Attend a ranger fossil talk (30 min) or guided walk (60 minutes)
• Stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center (60 minutes)
• Go to the White River Visitor Center (45 minutes – does not include travel time to the facility)
• Take in a sunset or sunrise (20 minutes)
• Tour the South Unit of the park (45 minutes to all day)
This is just a small sample of the many sites one can see while traveling in western South Dakota. You could also visit Sturgis, home of the annual motorcycle rally. The 78th one being held August 3-12, 2018. Or, stop in Deadwood, and Keystone, or at other landmarks in the area .
Click on the bold links.
Plan a trip.
Attend the Annual Buffalo Roundup. If not in 2017, next year.
Enjoy the many great places in South Dakota.
Linda Leier Thomason, a former South Dakotan, is a retired CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above.
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©Copyright. September 2017. Linda Leier Thomason