Custer State Park in the Black Hills encompasses over 73,000 acres of spectacular terrain and an abundance of wildlife.
Favorite outdoor activities include hiking 7,242-foot Black Elk Peak, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, chuck wagon suppers and jeep rides. The park boasts scenic drives such as the Needles Highway (SD 87), which twists and turns its way past towering rock formations and through narrow tunnels, including the Needles Eye, a granite spire with a slit only 3 to 4 feet wide but reaching 30 to 40 feet high.
Walk the banks of French Creek, where Custer’s expedition discovered gold in 1874, take in a theater performance at the Black Hills Playhouse, or visit the log cabin home of Badger Clark, South Dakota’s first poet laureate. You will find resorts at Sylvan Lake, Legion Lake, Blue Bell and the State Game Lodge, each unique—ranging from the stately Game Lodge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, to the mini dude ranch at Blue Bell. Seven campgrounds offer a variety of sites.
Don’t be surprised if you encounter a roadblock of grazing bison. A herd of approximately 1,500, one of the world’s largest, roams freely, often stopping traffic along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road. (A word of caution: Bison can be unpredictable and dangerous. It’s safest to view them from inside a car.) The park is also home of pronghorn antelope, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, wild turkeys, and a band of friendly burros.
Park rangers lead guided nature walks and gold-panning excursions. Evening campfire programs feature slide shows, outdoor-cooking demonstrations and films. For the kids, the Junior Naturalist Program teaches about the outdoors through hands-on activities. For detailed information about programs and activities, stop by the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center, along US Highway 16A, or the Wildlife Station Visitor Center, along the Wildlife Loop Road.
ANGOSTURA STATE RECREATION AREA
The warm-water springs found near Angostura have drawn visitors for more than 10,000 years. Legends describe a fierce battle between the Lakota and Cheyenne people to control the area’s health restoring springs, and white immigrants who came to the area quickly realized the benefits of the mineral-laden springs and settled in the area.
Angostura Recreation Area is nestled along the shoreline of the reservoir. In 1949, the Bureau of Reclamation completed an earth-filled and concrete dam across the Cheyenne River. The word Angostura is Spanish for “narrows.” The Angostura Dam created more than 5,000 surface acres of water, a water-lover’s haven. The Angostura Reservoir is well known for its walleye, small mouth bass and crappie fishing. The lake also supports northern pike, largemouth bass, perch and bluegill. Average depth is 29 feet and the deepest portion is 75 feet when full. The lake’s average summer temperature is 66 degrees Fahrenheit.
36 miles of shoreline provide some of the finest sandy beaches in the state with four modern campgrounds and several picnic areas. The park also features a 78-slip marina, beach club, and floating convenience store. Cabin rentals are available. Angostura Recreation Area is located 10 miles southeast of Hot Springs, off US Highway 385-18, and is open year-round.