Wildlife Station Visitor Center

Our training manual for Custer State Park says “The Wildlife Station Visitor Center in Custer State Park is a satellite interpretive and educational facility within the park that focuses on the wildlife and mixed-grass prairie habitate. It complements the overall program by providing quests services along one of the most popular scenic byways within the Black Hills, the Wildlife Loop Road, allowing visitors to take a break and enjoy the unique prairie setting”. This Visitor Center is one of four Visitor Centers within the park that the Volunteer Hosts rotate through when working our assigned schedules.

I love the way this park utilizes every bit of available space, including floor space, to provide educational information to the guests that come here.

The building was originally built in 1938 as the Herdsman’s home. In 1987, it was converted from a park residence to a visitor center.

I love that the park has dedicated a Visitor Center that is dedicated to the grasslands here in the park, and they provide so much educational information about the animals that live in these grasslands. Like Prairie Dog Town. Prairie dogs dig their holes for their families to live in underground, but all sorts of other creatures, like snakes, and burrowing owls, get in them and take over them for their own homes that they didn’t have to build. The black-footed ferret is a predator of the prairie dogs. They go right down into the prairie dogs dens and kill them while they are sleeping.

Visitors learn that “many animals can no longer follow their historic migration patterns to seek better grazing range. So resource managers within the park work to ensure a balance between health of the range and health of the animals who call it home”.


The Coyote is the state animal in South Dakota

 

The Wildlife Visitor Center also lets visitors know about all the animals of Custer State Park.

This sign is the source of lots of comical responses from visitors. It really tells what coyote’s eat, but because it says “coyote cafe”, many visitors don’t really read all the sign says like the “crunch platter, that says pick any two beetle species” and as a result they come up to us and ask how they can get to the coyote cafe… I swear you can’t make this stuff up. Just yesterday a visitor came in and asked “why we only shave half of the bison and leave all that fur around their heads”? Makes me wonder where some of these folks come from that they don’t know the bison are shedding their winter fur…

 

Now here is a face only a mother could love… I didn’t realize we had Porcupines in Custer State Park.

 

Bill and I haven’t been out enough yet to get to see the Bighorn Sheep that roam free within the park. We’ve been too busy getting trained and working our first real shifts…

 

 

 

All the Visitor Centers have information on Custer’s Expedition to the Black Hills..

 

I love the Cathedral Spires within the park. They are so majestic. We saw lots of them when we drove Needles Highway.

This is the barn that was built when the Herdsman’s home was built. It is used now as a picnic area for visitors. Every morning the host working at this Visitor Center, opens the barn doors, wipes off the picnic tables inside, and raises the flags. Then we go inside the Visitor Center and get it ready to open for the day.

 

This picture is the view from the back of the barn. This whole park is so beautiful, but the Wildlife Station Visitor Center area is one of my favorite places within the park.

Bill bought this handy, dandy, little flashlight so if the power ever goes out while working, I will at least have this to provide some light. It winds up so you never have to buy batteries. How cool is that.

And, it really puts out a lot of light. I’m all set now to do my job come rain or shine…


Stay tuned for more fun in South Dakota!

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Getting Settled In Custer State Park

If you follow my blog, you know by now that my husband, Bill, and I are hosting in any one of four Visitor Centers, in Custer State Park, in South Dakota. We are so excited to be here, and just like any other visitor to Custer State Park, we are always excited to see the many Bison that roam freely throughout the park. This big boy wandered freely through our campsite,

 

and stopped to look at me, taking a picture of him, through our bedroom window. It was raining that day but I still liked this picture of him through the rain drops…

Bison are THE number one animal most visitors want to see in the park, so much so, that we actually get a Bison report every morning at the four Visitor Center’s throughout the park, that let us know where the Bison are so we can let the visitor’s know.

Of course, there are lots and lots of other animals roaming freely in the park. We get visited by a herd of dear every morning and evening at or campsite, and I get excited to see them as well.

Once we got settled into our campsite, we ventured out to find a Catholic Church to attend when we are off on Sunday’s . We are not always off on Sunday, but when we are, we attend Mass. The closest Catholic Church to us is in the City of Custer, which is only about 13 miles from our campsite. It’s a small church, but I love the small town feeling of being welcomed this church provides.

 

So after a week long, whirlwind, most amazing orientation/training we have ever had at any park we’ve hosted at, we are ready to begin our hosting duties here in Custer State Park. We received our official South Dakota State Park uniforms, and are ready to start helping our visitor’s have an amazing experience here in Custer State Park.

We were told during or orientation/training ,that sometimes there could be one, or a herd of 400 Bison outside your door at any given time. The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter if there is one, or a whole herd, you can NOT go outside if you have a Bison within 75 yards of the structure you are in. Bison can run 35 miles per hour, so obviously, with this big boy right outside our door, we weren’t going anywhere until he decided to leave… Or, we would have to call for assistance to help him move on down the road… How may people do you know that can call into work late because they have a Bison blocking their path to their car? 🙂

We are loving our experience here in Custer State Park.

Stay Tuned!

Custer South Dakota Orientation

Bill and I are all settled into our home for the summer in Custer State Park, South Dakota. What a beautiful and magical place. We arrived on May 7th, and on May 9th, we began a very exciting orientation that started in the main Visitor Center, where we will host. This visitor center has a 100 seat theater, where we were saw a movie of the history of Custer State Park. We then spent the morning being introduced to all of the permanent staff, and learned what their responsibilities are, and the seasonal paid workers, and what they do, along with all the other volunteer staff, like us,  that will be working in various areas throughout the park.

When lunchtime rolled around, we were loaded into vans that took us on tours of specific areas within the park so we could get an understanding where things are located within the park. With over 71,000 acres of park land, housing 4 Visitor Centers, there is a lot to learn about how each Visitor Center is different from the others. As Visitor Center Hosts, we will rotate through each of the four Visitor Centers according to our weekly schedules. But before we made a stop at the Visitor Center of the day, we were treated to lunch in one of the many restaurants within the area.

After lunch on day one, we visited the Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Visitor Center. We will host here as well. This building serves as the base for the majority of the interpretive and educational programs offered within the park, it’s the primary location where visitors can interact with park naturalist and participate in hands-on-activities, learn about wildlife and the plants of the park, and pick up a junior Naturalist booklet. The focus of the center is a kid-friendly adventure to “Discover How to Explore”.

 

 

 

 

There are lots of interactive things to see, touch, open,

and learn about while looking both up and down along your way.

Information like how to make sure you have a backpack that is truly ready to meet your needs out on the trails.

And information on what you might want to look for within the park when you’re out hiking, camping etc.

There are lots of camouflage things on the floor designed to show you how easy it is to miss things if you’re not paying attention. Do you see the snake on the ground?

The outside of the building is another opportunity for children to explore. There is an opening designed to look like what might have been a gold mine. As the kids, or adults, get closer, they can see specks in the rocks that may or may not have been gold…

Our next stop was Badger Hole, another Visitor Center where we will host. This was the home of Charles “Badger” Clark (1883-1957). South Dakota’s first poet laureate. He wrote poems such as A Cowboy’s Prayer, I Must Come Back, and other poems, verse, and short stories that are popular among South Dakotan’s, cowboys, and travelers from all over the world.

 

After Clark’s death on September 26,, 1957, the Badger Hole was acquired by the state from his heirs on the condition that it is maintained as a museum. Everything, his personal belongings, library, clothing, antiques, etc. is to be maintained just as he left them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day we took a tour of the wildlife loop in the park. Lots and lots of Bison roaming freely throughout the park.

 

Again, we were treated to lunch at yet another restaurant within the park, and then we toured the Wildlife Station Visitor Center. No pictures of that yet, but stay tuned for more on that later.

At our next stop we visited the Corrals where they bring in all the Bison during the annual Bison roundup at the end of September. Bill and I won’t be here for that because we will be on our way back to Arizona for our winter hosting positions at McDowell Mountain Regional Park.

At the Corrals we learned that all the Bison are rounded up at the end of September every year. This is a huge visitor draw, and lots and lots of people come out to watch the roundup. Cowboys on horseback drive the bison to the holding corrals, and it is all hands on deck to ensure they get weighed, tagged, and the bulls get separated from the cows.

And as needed, they get vaccinated,

and branded with an (S) that identifies them as state Bison.

About 250 Bison are sold at the Bison roundup, the rest are set free to continue to roam freely throughout the park for another year.

It’s all so beautiful and exciting here in Custer State Park. We are impressed with the detailed orientation we are receiving, and that will be followed with on the job training as we rotate through the four different visitor centers throughout the park.

Stay tuned for updates as we learn more about our jobs within each Visitor Center, and as we get out and about to explore all this amazing state has to offer.

 

Road Trip To South Dakota

Bill and I have been on a five-day road trip to South Dakota. We left Cottonwood, Arizona on Saturday, April 27, 2019 after spending five days visiting with my brother, Danny. Our first stop was Gallup, New Mexico where we spent the night in the USA RV Park. Our next stop was Sante Fe, New Mexico, another one night. stop. Then, we headed to Fountain, Colorado, for another one night stay. Our trip up to that point had been pretty much uneventful. However, when we left Fountain, Colorado, on our way to Glendo, Wyoming, we ran into very heavy fog until we were just 20 miles outside Denver. In addition to the heavy fog, that part of our trip was also in the middle of a big construction zone. Pretty scary traveling through heavy fog in that particular area.

As we were driving through Glendo, Wyoming, we were seeing snow on the side of the roads, but the roads were still clear, so we kept moving forward. When we arrived at our destination in Glendo, Wyoming, there was a little bit of melting snow on the ground, but the skies were clear, and it didn’t look like any more snow was on the horizon…

However, when we got up in the morning of what was to be our departure, there was snow on the ground again Now, I know, for those of you that are seasoned Motorhome travelers, this probably would not be a big deal to you at all… Good for you, but we have never driven our motorhome, which is our full-time home, and not just a recreational vehicle, in snow. We checked the forecast and it said the roads were slushy, with patches of ice, and on and off snow showers… So we decided to extend our stay another day.

Good call for us, because the next day brought bright blue skies, and clear roads, all the way into South Dakota.

We will be hosting in Visitor Center’s in Custer State Park for the summer months.  But another reason we wanted to come to South Dakota is to register our moterhome, and become residents of South Dakota, which has already saved us $1,000 dollars in registration fees for our motorhome alone. Huge difference in what you pay from state to register you motorhome and car.

Now, in order to become residents of South Dakota, we had to spend at least one night in a motel, or campground, and show a receipt for our stay. Bill and I are staying five days in Americas Mailbox campground. Americas Mailbox is a mail forwarding service that gives full-time RV folks an address to receive their mail. Then you schedule dates and addresses and they forward your mail to you wherever you may roam…

The campground at Americas Mailbox is nothing fancy, it’s basically just a big parking lot with full-hookups. However, the day before we arrived, we received an email from the campground, letting us know a water line broke in the campground, and we would not have any water hook-ups during our stay. They said they will not be able to get the water line fixed until the middle of May. But we are fully self-contained so it was not going to be a deal breaker for us.

As I took my walk around the area, one thing I noticed so far about South Dakota, is the weather can change from bright and sunny skies, to ominous clouds in a very short period of time.

All in all we had a great trip from Arizona to South Dakota. We are looking forward to moving into our campsite in Custer State Park on May 7th, and starting our orientation and training on May 9th.

Stay Tuned for future posing of our South Dakota experience.

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