TAKE A WILDLIFE SAFARI IN RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA
Bear Country USA is a drive-thru wildlife park open May through late November. Here you can take a leisurely three-mile drive through the forest to view North American mammals. Encounter black bear, elk, reindeer, deer, cougars, bobcats, rocky mountain goats, bighorn sheep, dall sheep and buffalo. After your drive through the park, stroll through Babyland to see bear cubs, wolf pups, meet Tank the grizzly bear, and see some of the parks smaller residents. Morning is the best time to visit on warm days as the animals become lethargic when it is hot outside.
After viewing warm-blooded species, drive a short distance to Reptile Gardens. Here you’ll see the world's largest reptile collection as listed in the 2014 Guinness Book of World Records, including giant tortoises and a huge crocodile named “Maniac”. Enjoy informative and entertaining animal shows including a gator show, snake show and bird show as well as a botanical garden filled with exotic plants, flowers and animals.
See where the buffalo roam in Custer State Park located approximately 50 miles from Rapid City. The 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road winds around the southern edge of the park and offers close-up views of 1,500 roaming buffalo, elk, big horn sheep, mountain goats, prairie dogs and curious burros. After wildlife viewing head back to Rapid City via Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road. This National Scenic Byway winds through the granite spires of the Needles, twists along pig-tail bridges and through granite tunnels with view of Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
If you don’t feel like doing the driving, Custer State Park offers Buffalo Safari Jeep Rides. Tours start at the State Game Lodge and last 1 ½ to 2 hours. Cruise through the park in custom open air Jeeps escorted by tour guides knowledgeable about the wildlife and the history of the park. Or tour the 71,000 acre park by horseback. Blue Bell Stables and Trail Rides offers guided rides through lesser known trails in Custer State Park.
Extend your Wildlife Safari
- Wind Cave National Park, south of Custer State Park, offers free park admission. Bison, elk and other wildlife roam the rolling prairie grasslands and forested hillsides of one of America's oldest national parks.
- Visit Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary and see hundreds of wild American, Spanish, and Sulphur mustangs roaming free across wind swept prairies.
- Don’t forget Badlands National Park, home to bison, coyotes, black footed ferrets, foxes, bighorn sheep and many other species of wildlife.