Airstream · Custer State Park, National Park Service, South Dakota Park Service, Mount Rushmore, Badlands, Prairie House

Badlands/Custer State Park/Mount Rushmore

“I’ve been about the world a lot, and pretty much over our own country, but I was totally unprepared for that revelation called the Dakota Badlands. What I saw gave me an indescribable sense of mysterious elsewhere – an endless supernatural world more spiritual than earth, but created out of it,” said Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935.

The Badlands and Black Hills 

The Badlands are breathtaking…with so much light, color and character on their buttes. We learned about the relationship between the buffalo, the Lakota, and the pioneers. Both Lakota and homesteaders shaped this land. Lakota hunted what they needed to support their way of life. The bison that played such a vital role for the Lakota were eradicated by non-Indian buffalo hunters. The National Park service shared that after 40 years of struggle, ending in the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890, the Lakota were confined to reservations. Cattle replaced bison, and wheat fields replaced prairies.

Pioneer Life

We visited Prairie Homestead, one of the few original sod houses remaining in the country.  This was a gem! It is the original home of Mr. and Mrs. Ed Brown, who homesteaded the acreage in 1909. The log beams of the house, made from cottonwood, are original. He plowed buffalo grass sod for the upper walls, and his living room was dug out to stay warm in the winter, and cold in the summer.

We saw Praire dogs, and other farm animals, and were able to explore in pioneer dress up clothes. Brady loved playing with the goats, and Piper was in Heaven with the chickens.

Little House on the Prairie

Custer State Park

Politician Peter Norbeck helped make Custer State Park in 1912, by persuading President William Taft to consolidate 48,000 acres to create Custer State Forest. Now, the park spans 71,000 acres of wilderness and is the home to buffalo, praire dogs, coyote, pronghorn, cougars and mountain lions. We saw buffalo walking everywhere, and learned so much from the park service through attending many of the Naturalist lead educational sessions, including the Lakota and their use of the buffalo (we held a bladder and learned it was their water jug!), the kids participated in a buffalo olympics, and we learned about praire dogs, wolves, and the water cycle.

We camped at Blue Bell campground, one of the 8 campgrounds, where we hiked, rode bikes to dinner and the local general store, saw wild turkeys, and went swimming in Center Lake. It was a great place to recharge and attend evening sessions with the Naturalists.

Thank you South Dakota State Park Service!

There were so many kids activities in Custer State park, and Steven and I were even able to go on a hike, while the kids had a blast at a half day Animal Detective camp, all included within our park pass. And Brady and Piper earned their Junior Naturalists badges, similar to Junior Ranger in national parks.  And Brady turned 11!

Mount Rushmore

We see why Mount Rushmore is such a national treasure. Traveling through the tunnels and glimpsing at the four Presidents along the way (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt), serves as a small teaser for the enormity of the real thing.

Mount Rushmore 

Designed and sculpted by Gutzon Blorgum, his work began in 1927, through his untimely death in 1941. Each of the heads is 60 ft. in length, and plasters were made of each so that the total of 400 workers could feel the texture to guide their sculpting, while dangling from a secured swing.

The Last Worker

We were honored to meet the last worker alive, who helped to carve this monument. Nick Clifford is 96 years old, and he originally got the job because his Mom did laundry for Borglum’s family. We were able to get an autographed copy of his book!

15 thoughts on “Badlands/Custer State Park/Mount Rushmore

  1. Oh Amanda,
    We enjoyed reading about the Badlands and Mt Rushmore and Little House on the Prairie, but, especially loved the pictures and that Brady Luke got to celebrate (again) his 11th Birthday at such a memorable place!! This is one birthday he’ll never forget!! I love the styrofoam buffalo and original decorations! You surely went prepared!! Wow!! How “special” that Brady and Piper earned more badges!! So proud of those two little pioneers!!
    Thank you for sharing with us and making us feel that we were there with you in words and pictures! ! We love you❤️😘😍❤️😘😍❤️😘😍❤️😘😍
    Praying for your safety, Mom and Mike


  2. What an adventure! LOVING the photos. What an experience. Totally in love with you blog! Happy belated to Brady. You guys should definitely invest in some prairie clothing. The pitchfork picture is priceless! Can’t wait to read more!


  3. Hi Amanda! I’m having a blast following your adventures! Thanks so much for making the effort. This kind of trip is Tucker’s greatest dream! And it’s great to “catch up” with you, since our time at NIH was so long ago. I’m glad life is treating you and your family well. Much love and God bless, Tracy Kilmer Clagett


    1. Hub Tracy, It is so great to hear from you! I think about you often and how you were so kind to help a lost intern and make her feel so comfortable in a big city. What a pearl you are! Please tell Tucker I said hello, and I hope you and your family are doing well! When you get ready for your trip, call me and I will share what NOT to do! XO


  4. Have loved ready your blog and seeing all the travel spots. What an awesome opportunity for your family. Have fun and safe travels.


    1. Thank you Debbie! I thought about you when we were in Ohio and the mission trip we did there in Dayton, when we also went to the Teds game. Thank you for all of the time you invested in our youth group! You made such a positive impact on our lives. I appreciate your comments! Tell Steve hello for me!


      1. Those youth trips were fun times. Especially the Acteen trips with Deborah and Frances. And it was a pleasure to spend time with such amazing girls. Loving the pictures of the west. We have been to the Grand Canyon and the Indian reservation on the way to the canyon but not all the other exciting places you have been. Be sure to go to the Grand Canyon. It is a site that will give you goose bumps. Prayers for your safety.


      2. Yes, so much fun! Love and appreciate you ladies. We hiked down to the Grand Canyon PRE kids and spent the night at the bottom. It was amazing. I am not sure if we will swing it this time, we are weighing between spending quality time there and heading through Colorado as well. We will decide next week! Thanks again!


  5. What a delight this has been seeing you all traveling over our beautiful country.
    Such a wonderful blessing that you are showing this to us .
    Thank you .
    Loraine Rowe


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