Where the buffalo roam… Postcard from Custer State Park

img_4019“What are they? Are they buffalo?”
“No. Those are cows.”

Five minutes later.

“No. Those are also cows.”

Two minutes later.


This was the continuous dialogue between Amy and I for the duration of our ~8 hour road trip from Denver to Devils Tower, Wyoming to Custer, South Dakota. For a state featuring a buffalo on its DAMN FLAG, it would seem that Wyoming sure is lacking in the buffalo department. They should think about adding a nice photo of a cow on their flag instead.

By the time we got to South Dakota, we were getting a little skeptical that these so-called “buffaloes” even existed. That all changed, though, when we got to Custer State Park.


You know that one State Farm commercial where the two guys are in their car freaking out about the attacking buffaloes and the magical insurance agent comes and brings them to safety in his office? Apparently that commercial was filmed in Custer State Park! At least that’s the word on the street.

Shortly after entering the park, we ran into these guys. Shout out to Texas. Texas forever.

But still no buffalo.


We kept driving. In Custer State Park, there are a few main roads: Needles Highway, Iron Mountain Road and Wildlife Loop Road. All three of these roads are a part of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, which has been named as one of 10 Most Outstanding Byways in America. On our several-hour-long drive through the park, we drove both Needles Highway and Wildlife Loop Road, both of which were quite outstanding indeed.

The first part of our drive along Needles Highway was drizzly and gray, but we were able to see the famous Granite Peaks of the South Dakota Black Hills (and even got to drive through an extremely narrow tunnel of rocks, giving me pangs of panic/flashbacks to the claustrophobic hike of death at Machu Picchu). Eventually we reached the junction of Needles Highway and Wildlife Loop Road. At this point, still no buffalo.

But then what was that out on the horizon? Could it be? Could it?



Amy and I pulled over time after time, gawking at the buffalo and getting all giddy and scared when they got just a little too close. We realized: the buffalo were always just eating. Constantly. ALL THEY DO IS EAT. These animals have no purpose in life but to eat, find patches of grass they have not yet eaten, eat this newly found grass, and have sex.

Such simplicity. No bills, no student loans, no social drama, no waking up early every morning to drive to work, no worrying about whether they’re eating healthy enough or whether they’ve gone to the gym enough this week. Food and fornicating. What a way to live a life. I’m thinking we could really learn something from these buffaloes. They might be wiser in their ways than we give them credit for.


We came across a bunch of little burros and a bunch of little sheep…


Hey boo.


Yet another wild animal in her natural habitat.IMG_4113 IMG_4095IMG_4020I asked Amy what her favorite part of our Custer State Park experience was.

“The buffalo.”

And I was like, “Is that it?”

And she said, “Umm well I just really liked how overwhelmed and excited I felt to be in a totally different landscape and seeing animals I’ve never seen before and being out in the open.”

There ya have it, folks! Custer State Park in a nutshell, according to an east coast suburban chick.

Have you ever seen the buffalo of Custer State Park?

PS: Home on the Range

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  • Reply John

    Great park. We were lucky to be there for the annual buffalo round up last year.

    September 3, 2015 at 5:11 am
    • Reply Kristen

      Wow that sounds incredible! Definitely something you don’t see every day.

      September 3, 2015 at 11:40 am
  • Reply Laura (PA Pict)

    Very cool. One of the things on my travel bucket list is to see free range bison.

    September 3, 2015 at 8:02 am
    • Reply Kristen

      It was the highlight of the trip! So HUGE up close!

      September 3, 2015 at 11:42 am
      • Reply Laura (PA Pict)

        I’ve seen them up close in zoos and in enclosed farms but I would love to see a whole herd of them together.

        September 3, 2015 at 11:45 am
        • Reply Kristen

          Yet another reason to visit South Dakota 🙂

          September 3, 2015 at 12:31 pm
  • Reply shmamyhopf

    Love this. Loved Custer State Park. lol burn on the bathroom pic!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 3, 2015 at 9:02 pm
  • Reply Salla

    I’ve done the exact same thing! Screamed “BUFFALOS!” to cows. And finally they actually were bufs.

    September 3, 2015 at 10:23 pm
    • Reply Kristen


      September 4, 2015 at 11:16 am
  • Reply rhodespics

    These are great photos! What kind of camera are you using?

    September 4, 2015 at 7:38 am
    • Reply Kristen

      An old Canon txi! It’s like 5 years old.

      September 4, 2015 at 11:17 am
  • Reply Hannah Myer

    LOVE the photos. So much wildlife. The one with the burros and the BEAUTIFUL SKY is my fave. I think I have the same feelings about that photo as you did for my chickens photo.

    September 4, 2015 at 3:07 pm
  • Reply mytravelbugbite

    Great photos. This has now been added to the seemingly never ending bucket list!

    September 6, 2015 at 11:14 am
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