Wandering Around America One State at a Time – South Dakota

State 37:

Welcome to the next post in my series highlighting states we have visited throughout the years. I hope you will enjoy coming along for the ride!

I will be featuring the states alphabetically. The next state in my series is

South Dakota

South Dakota became the 40th state on November 2, 1889. The Capital is Pierre.

Our travels have taken us through South Dakota a surprising number of times. The Corn Palace in Mitchell and Wall Drug Store in Wall are two fun places to take a travel break along Interstate 90.

Like so many other people, we made the Black Hills our primary travel destination in South Dakota. There is so much to see there we couldn’t do everything we wanted on our first trip so we returned five years later. In addition to the spectacular scenery, the highlights of our visits were Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, Custer State Park, the wildlife, Deadwood, Wind Cave National Park and Badlands National Park.

Mount Rushmore National Monument
Crazy Horse Monument in 2006
Crazy Horse Monument in the summer of 2011
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Five years after our first trip to the Black Hills, we camped at Game Lodge Campground in Custer State Park. We loved being close to so much wildlife.

Custer State Park is home to herds of Bison, also known as American Buffalo. Many can be seen from the scenic Wildlife Loop Road. Some also like to hang out in other parts of the park and we often saw them near the Game Lodge Campground. There were many calves when we were there in early June. As we drove through the park and on the drive through Wind Cave National Park we saw bison, pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs wild burros, and even white tail deer. This collage of the bison and other wildlife we saw in and around Custer State Park shows just a small sample of the wildlife that is there.

Just driving through the Black Hills is an adventure and there are several scenic drives to enjoy. Iron Mountain Road and the Needles Highway are both narrow, steep, curvy roads with single lane tunnels. There were spectacular views from the Mount Coolidge Overlook at the end of another narrow road. Another day the views were spectacular as we drove through Spearfish Canyon but I forgot my camera that day!

Along the Needles Highway in Custer Sate Park
Eye of the Needle on the Needles Highway
Needle Tunnel
Mount Rushmore from one of the tunnels on Iron Mountain Road
View of Crazy Horse Monument from the top of the Coolidge Overlook in Custer State Park

Deadwood is famous for being the town where Wild Bill Hickok was shot by Jack McCoy in the Number 10 Saloon in 1876. In the new Number 10 Saloon visitors can see a reenactment of the shooting of Wild Bill and there are reenactments in the street with gunslingers. We took the drive to his grave in the nearby Mount Moriah Cemetery.

We discovered a couple of delightful campgrounds outside of the Black Hills during our South Dakota journeys. The owners are hard working and helpful at the Belvidere East KOA. Blondie enjoyed the dog park and we loved the Indian Tacos at their restaurant. The sunset was great, too.

Sunset at Belvidere East Campground
Sunset at Belvidere East Campground

Mina Lake State Recreation area near Aberdeen was a perfect place to chill after our time in the Black Hills. The park was practically empty and the camp hosts were friendly and helpful. They even brought us some pheasant appetizers one evening.

Mina Lake State Recreation area near Aberdeen

To read previous posts about the states featured in this series just click on the state name: Alabama      Alaska      Arizona      Arkansas      California      Colorado     Florida      Georgia      Hawaii        Idaho  Illinois      Indiana      Iowa     Kansas     Kentucky     Louisiana     Maine     Maryland     Massachusetts     Michigan     Minnesota    Mississippi     Missouri     Montana     Nebraska     Nevada      New Hampshire     New Mexico      New York     North Carolina    North Dakota      Ohio     Oklahoma     Oregon     Pennsylvania    South Carolina

A Few of our Favorite State Park Campgrounds

We love camping in state parks. Most state parks we have found have big sites, beautiful surroundings, and wildlife.

We didn’t discover state park camping until the only place we could find to stay in Arkansas on our way home on our first RV trip was Lake Dardanelle State Park in Russellville, Arkansas.  Our site was big, we weren’t lined up like sardines next to our neighbors, and we had a nice lake near our site. From that night on, we have looked for state parks whenever we travel.

Here are just a few state parks we love.

Custer State Park, Custer, South Dakota – the Black Hills, scenic drives and wildlife.

Cape Disappointment State Park, Ilwaco, Washington – 2 lighthouses, a path to the beach behind our full hook up campsite, a dog friendly beach on the Pacific Ocean, and  a Lewis and Clark museum. What’s not to love?

St. Joseph Peninsula, Port St. Joe, Florida in Florida’s Forgotten Coast – beautiful uncrowded white sandy beaches, nature trails, and sunsets.

Stephen C. Foster State Park, Fargo, Georgia – Huge sites in the middle of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

Other state parks that stand out are Itasca State Park in Minnesota, Claytor Lake State Park in Virginia, Beverly Beach and Humbug Mountain State Parks in Oregon, Kentucky Horse Park in Kentucky, and Cattail Cove State Park in Arizona. We’ve also camped in many Florida and Georgia state parks and love them all.

If you are an RV’er or tent camper and never stayed in a state park, give one a try on your next trip. And if you don’t camp, many state parks have cabins for rent and a few even have lodges.