Ever since park rangers started rounding up some 1,200 head of buffalo each fall for the annual branding, sorting and vaccinating of the herd, visitors have been fascinated by this Old West tradition. In 2008 over 11,000 people witnessed this one-of-a-kind event in western South Dakota, and the festivities grow every year.
Custer State Park covers 72,000 beautiful acres in the southern Black Hills. Located just fifty miles from the Wyoming border, this wildlife sanctuary is considered the jewel of the South Dakota state park system. In addition to buffalo, the park is a safe haven for elk, deer, pronghorn, Rocky Mountain sheep and goats, wild turkeys, prairie hens, the ever-popular prairie dogs, plus hundreds of other species, some of them endangered.
The first week-end in October is set aside for the roundup and all the attendant activities including a chuckwagon buffalo cookout, arts festival, buffalo wallow chili cook-off, buffalo chip throwing contest, cowboy poets, musical entertainment and much more. This year’s dates are September 24-29, 2011.
Now you can thrill to the wonder of these pre-historic beasts rumbling by a designated – and safe – viewing area to the corrals. By joining a group tour you will have a prime viewing location and priority admission to the corral and vendors area. Shebby Lee Tours offers a Buffalo Roundup package which not only includes the roundup festivities but also beautiful Black Hills scenery and popular attractions including Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Badlands National Park, Wall Drug, the 1880 train, Kevin Costner’s Tatanka (“buffalo” in the Lakota language), and historic Deadwood.
The Black Hills were the sacred Paha Sapa of the Sioux, the last Native tribe to submit to the United States government in the late 19th century. The tribes were completely dependent on the buffalo for subsistence, and with it’s demise came their own. Fortunately, the buffalo (scientific name: Bison Bison) survived, and are today no longer endangered. The Sioux have also recovered and attendees will learn about their buffalo culture at Tatanka: Story of the Bison near Deadwood. Centerpiece of the attraction is a larger-than-life bronze sculpture featuring 14 bison being pursued by 3 Native American riders. An Educational Center depicts the story of bison and man through interactive exhibits. Visitors will visit authentic tipis interpreted by a Lakota Native and gain a unique snapshot of Indian life as it was during the height of the Buffalo Culture around the year 1840.
The six day hub-and-spoke itinerary is based at Palmer Gulch Lodge, situated in the shadow of Harney Peak. The new rock and log construction lends the lodge just the right rustic charm for your Black Hills adventure.
Shebby Lee is a historian, writer and tour operator specializing in the historic and cultural heritage of the Great American West. Her early training was in the theatre and she served a tour of duty as an entertainer with the USO. She is also an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy.