Black Hills Journey – More Than Faces Carved in Stone

Black Hills, South Dakota.

Probably the most famous mountain in South Dakota is Mount Rushmore, home of the four Presidents. Not far from this mountain is another mountain, a single monument to a Native American, Crazy Horse. But the Black Hills are much more than faces on mountains. We began our journey that day at Mount Rushmore, seen here captured next to an unusual cloud formation.

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Lynn and I made our first visit to the monument under construction only a few miles from Mount Rushmore and featured a Travel Tuesday about the new monument here. I will let you choose to read or review that post (or not) at your discretion.

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At the entrance to the Crazy Horse Monument is one of the most dynamic sculptures I’ve ever seen. The Fighting Stallions is a larger-than-life work that was sculpted by the same man who was responsible for beginning construction on the Crazy Horse Memorial. Korczak Ziolkowski also assisted Gutzon Borglum in sculpting Mount Rushmore.

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When we left the Crazy Horse Monument, we continued our tour of the area by visiting Custer State Park. The image above features Stockade Lake as captured by my drone. If you click on the image, you can see that it’s a “selfie” of sorts. That’s me in the blue shirt operating the drone.

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The park invites many young fisherman to try his or her luck at capturing a delicious meal, but as always, be sure your family is in compliance with state laws and park regulations on harvesting fish from the lakes in the park.

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There were plenty of opportunities to capture wildlife images in the park. This ram was sitting in the shade of a small grove of trees where we found several bighorn sheep on that day. I was thankful to have my 16-300 mm zoom lens available as these beautiful animals were quite some distance up the hill from where we were standing at a pull-off.

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Custer State Park, comprised of an area of 114 square miles (295 square km), is one of the largest parks in the contiguous United States. Designated as a wildlife preserve in 1919, the park is also home to a large buffalo herd. As it turned out, we didn’t happen to see many buffalo that day. In the image below, a lone bull was calmly enjoying the beautiful autumn weather.

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Lynn and I have visited the park in previous years, at that time seeing only the buffalo the park is known for. This year, we not only saw the bighorn sheep but for the first time when not in a zoo, we saw pronghorn antelope. More images featuring South Dakota pronghorns like those pictured below are in my Flickr Gallery.

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The autumn day gave me opportunities for some fall color photos. Aside from the uniqueness of the wildlife photos that I captured that day, my favorite capture was of this farm equipment that has seen better days and is clearly on display for passers-by on the highway out of the park.

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There were plenty of autumn colors to view as we headed east, our next stop would be the Badlands National Park. We were almost home from our 8,000-mile journey, but I haven’t shared everything from this fall trip in 2020. We still have posts from the trip scheduled through the beginning of 2022.

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Please click on any of the images above to visit my Flickr Album for this post. There are additional images there from this visit to Custer State Park and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Click on any of the images there for an even closer look in 2K HD.

This post is being written in mid-July, 2021, so I can announce it now that we are again in the process of planning another September/October trip. If all goes as planned, when you see this post in October, we’ll be well on our travels westward again to visit places we bypassed from last year. We are hopeful that some of the places we skipped last year due to wildfires will be open for us to see this fall. As this is being written, the west is again on fire in many locations. Between the heat and the drought, I know when September gets here, we will have to be flexible.

John Steiner


  1. We only made a flying visit to see Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse as a detour from our road trip around Wyoming. Your photos show that there’s much more to see in the area for if/when we get back to the region. I love the ram photo, the lone buffalo and the glorious yellow on that tree!

    • That cloud formation was surely interesting. I saw it when it was quite a bit west of the monuments. When I saw it was heading within range of my camera, I waited patiently for the wind to move it.
      Interestingly, it didn’t change shape much at all as it moved.

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