Custer State Park is one of the largest state parks in the Lower 48, and because of its unique historical, cultural, and natural resources, it attracts many visitors. If you want to avoid the crowds, the best times to visit are from May to mid-June and September through October. Spring offers a reawakening of the grasslands and the birth of cinnamon-colored bison calves, as well as elk, deer, pronghorn, and other wildlife. Fall beckons the change of colors in every canyon and ravine, as well as the bugling of bull elk as they search for mates. It's also the season for the annual buffalo roundup, held the last Monday in September, which draws nearly 11,000 spectators.
Creekside Lodge is open in the winter, and winter camping is available.
Crazy Horse Memorial: the "fifth face"
Known by locals as the "Fifth Face" in the Black Hills, the sculpture of the legendary Lakota Sioux Chief Crazy Horse began with the dedication of the work on June 3, 1948. More than a half-century later, work continues on what is expected to be the world's largest sculpture. The chief's nine-story-high face has been completed, and work has begun on carving the 22-story-high horse's head.
Begun by the late sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski (pronounced Jewel-cuff-ski), and carried on by his widow, sons, and daughters, the mountain sculpture memorial is dedicated to all American Indians.
"My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, too," Sioux Chief Henry Standing Bear wrote Ziolkowski in 1939, inviting him to create the mountain memorial. Seven years later, the sculptor agreed and began carving the colossal work.
When the sculpture is completed, Crazy Horse will sit astride his mount, pointing over his stallion's head to the sacred Black Hills. So large is the sculpture (563 ft. high) that all four presidents on Mount Rushmore would fit in Crazy Horse's head.
Visitors driving by the site on U.S. 16/385, 5 miles north of the town of Custer, might hear dynamite blasts, a surefire signal that work on the mountain carving is progressing. When night blasts are detonated, they tend to be among the most impressive events in the Black Hills.
In addition to viewing the carving in progress and watching an audiovisual display about the work, visitors may stop at the Indian Museum of North America at Crazy Horse, which is home to one of the most extensive collections of American Indian art and artifacts in the country. The museum's gift shop features authentic American Indian crafts.
For more information, go to www.crazyhorsememorial.org.