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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Custer State Park‏

May 22nd, 2010 · No Comments

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Custer State Park feels like the center of the Black Hills. The park is actually at the southeastern side of the Black Hills.

But this large state park is more than 70,000 acres of forest and meadow with probably more wildlife than than all the other nearby hills. To me the prize is one of the world’s largest herds of free-roaming bison (American buffalo). More than 1,500 of these dark, huge animals find shelter in the forest and fodder in the meadows.

The meadows are like a large, long glade of rolling grassland. Even better, the Wildlife Loop Road runs through it for 18 miles. I took that route again and again for each of the past four days. On most of those days I went out at sunrise and sunset and visited other sites during the rest of the day that I wrote about earlier.

To me, visiting Custer State Park was the most rewarding part of my trip to the Black Hills. I feel this because it brought me closer to nature.

Seeing buffalo was what I most wanted to do. And I did.

The shot that I like the most is less than technically perfect. Early one morning in a dense fog I saw hundreds of buffalo on both sides of the road and on the road itself. But on the skyline what really grabbed my attention were this pair:

A Pair of Buffalo

A Pair of Buffalo

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Here is another skyline shot of another buffalo on another, better day:

On the Skyline

On the Skyline

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A Pause While Drinking Mud

A Pause While Drinking Mud

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But it was the feral burros that were so much fun. On two trips down the Wildlife Loop they came right up to my SUV. The big attraction turned out to be my side-view mirrors.

A Scratching Post for Burros

A Scratching Post for Burros

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Another Burro Takes Its Turn

Another Burro Takes Its Turn

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Two Gentle Burros

Two Gentle Burros

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Late one evening I came across this elk at the edge of the forest. The elk here are particularly shy, because people hunt them in all the rest of South Dakota.

A Young Elk

A Young Elk

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Of course, the most plentiful wildlife were deer and pronghorns.

This Pronghorn Was So Close That My Camera Couldn't Capture More

This Pronghorn Was So Close That My Camera Couldn't Capture More

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Only twice before have I ever come across wild turkeys. But I saw them three times during my visit to Custer State Park.

A Wild Turkey

A Wild Turkey

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The park also contains some spectacular scenery. At this lake dramatic rock formations rise directly from the water’s edge.

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

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The most dramatic rock formations are “The Needles.” And the most dramatic of them all is “The Needles Eye.”

The Needles Eye

The Needles Eye

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Strangely, my prejudice almost stopped me from visiting Custer State Park. I despise the man for whom the park was named, George Armstrong Custer. I despise his hubris and stupidity. But the park is a lot better.

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Posted in: Photography, South Dakota

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