South Dakota Trip Part 2 –Taking the Tour

When I did my research online in preparation for this trip I came across several tours that were offered.  We had always been “do-it-yourself-tour” folks out of thriftiness, I guess, until we went on an Alaskan cruise and land tour.  That was when we discovered how valuable paying for a tour can be.  When you do so, pretty much everyone involved in it, from the bus driver on up, is a docent full of interesting information.

The tour that caught my eye started at Fort Hayes with a pancake breakfast before setting out with an option of participating in the chuck wagon dinner and show afterwards.  We opted to not participate in the dinner and show because….


…………we knew that some of us (actually ALL of us) would be pooped by the days end.  And, we were.

This is actually the set that Kevin Costner had built when he filmed “Dances With Wolves” in the area.

Fort Hayes SD


You can look around inside the buildings, purchase souvenirs in the store, watch demonstrations at the black smith’s, etc.



One of the buildings is the office of the commanding officer that Kevin Costner’s character deals with to get his orders to go west.  This is the officer that is nuts and shoots himself afterwards.  The scene that takes place is looping on a monitor over and over again and the floor is marked where Kevin Costner stood during the shot so you can stand there and get of sense of what it was like….I guess.  Anyway, it’s a fun start of the tour, especially for kids.

After getting on the bus the first stop is Mt. Rushmore.


We probably stayed there about 2 hours.  The bus driver let everyone know what time to be back at the bus and we were on our own there. It gives you plenty of time to visit the museum, shop, watch the film explaining how this was accomplished and …….


………gaze at these guys.  They’re awfully photogenic! After leaving Mt. Rushmore we headed to Custer State Park with our bus driver telling stories about the area and pointing out interesting things.


 One of the things he pointed out was how the roads, and even this tunnel, were built to frame this view. Custer State Park is home to a myriad of wildlife.


 These burros are descendants of the burros who came to this area with the gold miners. When the miners left the area they left their burros as well.  They are very tame and, like the bears used to be in Yellowstone, look to the visitors for possible treats and are now referred to as the “Begging Burros”.  The park service provides hay for them in the winter months but otherwise they are on their own.


 We also saw several bighorn sheep.  But, mostly, we saw…….


………..buffalo.  Lots and lots of buffalo.  Custer State Park is home to the largest herd in the U.S.


 This fellow kept bellowing the same message over and over again to another fellow in the herd.  It was basically this…”Back off Jack, she’s mine!”….with his tongue sticking out just for emphasis.


 While in Custer State Park we stopped at the State Game Lodge for lunch.  This place has been a favorite of more than one president and Calvin Coolidge called it “The Summer White House”.



It’s beautiful inside and out keeping a consistent “lodge” feel. After lunch there was more of the park to explore before heading to Crazy Horse Memorial.


Understandably Mt. Rushmore has been a bone of contention among Native Americans who feel it’s inappropriate to place the face of four presidents on what they consider their mountain.  Crazy Horse Memorial is a response to that.  It’s a slow-going project and a huge undertaking. There is no government money going into this so work is done as the funds become available. Therefore, the progress is slow.  I don’t know that I can discern any difference in the recent photos I’ve seen from these that were taken 7 years ago.


 But, I do hope they realize their vision.  It would be so impressive.  This site also has an art gallery featuring only Native American artists as well as a gift shop with handmade Native American jewelry. I would have loved to have spent a bit longer here but this was the final stop on our tour and it was getting late in the afternoon so our time was cut a bit short.  We got in the bus and headed back to the Fort Hayes set so that those who signed up for the chuck wagon dinner and show would be in time.

We ended up being glad we didn’t choose that option (although I ‘m sure it would have been enjoyable) as it had been a long day and we were all tired. We all felt that we had gotten more than our money’s worth.  I believe it cost us around $60 each.  That included our breakfast, our entrance fees into all of the sites and our transportation.  I’m not sure we could have even done it cheaper on our own.  Sometimes tours are just the way to go and I’m so glad we chose one this time.  We saw SO much in one day and learned WAY more than we would have on our own.  If you’re planning on seeing these sites I highly recommend taking a tour.


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