Wildlife Loop, Custer SP...
Jul 24, 2014
|Today John & Joyce joined Larry & I for a drive on the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop Road. This is an 18-mile semi-circle route from the State Game Lodge to the Blue Bell Lodge. The paved road meanders through the grasslands of the prairie and into the hills sprinkled with Ponderosa pine. It also offers a network of well-maintained and easily traveled roads that lead off from the main paved Wildlife Loop Road. These roads provide access to more remote areas and are accessible by car. We've taken most of them in the past & plan to explore more late in August.
Our first stop today was at the the Mount Coolidge Lookout and Fire Tower. It rests atop a 6,023-foot peak with breath-taking 360 degree views from the top of the fire tower. With binoculars you can see the Needles, the Badlands, Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse in the distance.
The tower was built in the 1940's by the Civilian Conservation Corps and is currently used for communications and by park rangers to spot fires. As you head north on SD 87 from Blue Bell towards Custer looks for a gravel turnoff on the west side of the road. A very windy 1.7-mile gravel road snakes it's way to the top of Mount Coolidge. Large vehicles and motorhomes are advised to avoid making the trip as the road is narrow and along the way are some steep drops without guardrails. The air quality wasn't as clear as it sometimes is, perhaps smoke from the Washington fires? That's what some think anyway...After a couple of photos we made our way back to SD 87, traveling to the turnoff for the wildlife loop.
In 1927.The Custer State Park Wildlife Loop Road is well known as THE road to view buffalo and prairie dogs, usually seen throughout the day. In the early morning & evening times you can sometimes catch a glimpse of elk, antelope, coyote and deer. The wildlife is free roaming and it is not very likely that every type of wildlife will be seen on every drive. Today we encountered a couple of prairie dogs, 3 antelope, 1 deer and of course, the numerous begging burros. We'd actually planned to find the burros today & came armed with bags of carrots.
The burros stand in the middle of the road to stop traffic. By stopping vehicles, this allows other burros (and them) to approach cars looking for food. They will pop their head in any open windows. The burros are not native wildlife. They are feral animals that are descended from burros (donkeys) that were once used to transport people up to the top of Harney Peak (also in the park). After stopping these trips, the burros were released in the park. Thus, they became semi-wild to wild animals that have passed down the skill of begging for handouts from the many cars that travel the road. Our timing today was perfect because about 20 minutes after we arrived the entire herd decided they had had enough of today's unusually warm temperature & headed into the grasses under the trees seeking shade.
Moving on we made our final stop at the gracious stone and wood State Game Lodge. Built in 1920, and listed on the National Register of Historic, it served as the "Summer White House" for President Calvin Coolidge in 1927 and was visited by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953.
Accommodations at the lodge range from stately lodge rooms to modern motel rooms and cozy cabins. The historic State Game Lodge Dining Room serves South Dakota specialties such as buffalo, pheasant, and trout. They also serve a nice buffet. The dining room is a popular spot for birthday, anniversary & wedding celebrations. After dinner, one can relax on the front porch or take a leisurely stroll along Grace Coolidge Creek. Named after Calvin's first lady, the stream flows through the lodge's sprawling front yard. Quite a lovely facility. South Dakota Magazine did an interesting write-up back in 2011 if you'd like to read more & see a couple of 'old' pics. Link here:
State Game Lodge
We arrived back home about 3 hours later and I'm supposed to be resting as I write this! LOL After dinner this evening we're all heading downtown for music. Only 4 more nights of 'Singing In The Hills'. Wow, where has the time gone??? So, thanks for stopping by & we'll see you later. Hospital bed races in the street tomorrow evening. Fun :)