By David Hubbard
The effort the rangers make to round up more than 1,200 head of buffalo each fall for the annual branding, sorting and vaccinating of the herd enthrall visitors who visit Custer State Park. This one-of-a-kind Old West event drew more than 12,000 people last year to watch the buffalo rumble by from a designated safe viewing area.
Every year there is more to do and see, according to Shebby Lee Tours, Rapid City, SD. The festivities include a chuckwagon buffalo cookout, arts festival, buffalo wallow chili cook-off, buffalo chip throwing contest, cowboy poets and musical entertainment.
Shebby Lee Tours offers a Buffalo Roundup package in late September that includes the roundup along with sidetrips through beautiful Black Hills scenery and popular attractions such as Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Badlands National Park, Wall Drug, the 1880 train, Kevin Costner’s Tatanka and historic Deadwood. The September 25-30 program is a TAP guaranteed departure.
The six day hub-and-spoke itinerary is based at Palmer Gulch Lodge, situated in the shadow of Harney Peak. Shebby Lee says the new rock and log construction lends the lodge just the right rustic charm for a Black Hills adventure. Group tour guests enjoy a prime viewing location at the roundup with priority admission to the corral and vendors area.
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 its demise came their own. Fortunately, the buffalo 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.
The centerpiece of the attraction is a larger-than-life bronze sculpture featuring 14 bison being pursued by three Native American riders. The 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 in 1840.
Custer State Park covers 72,000 beautiful acres in the southern Black Hills. Located just 50 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.
Shebby Lee Tours has been specializing in the historic and cultural heritage of the Great American West since 1978. [www.shebbyleetours.com ]