Custer State Park Celebrates Centennial
June 10, 2019

Custer State Park is one of the largest state parks in the United States.  Enjoyed by almost 2 million visitors from around the world every year, this jewel of South Dakota is home to free-roaming buffalo, pristine lakes, gurgling streams, along with the granite outcroppings of the Needles spires.  The establishment of the park did not occur overnight, it was a long process involving the vision of Peter Norbeck, the constant shuffling of ideas and moving pieces.

By 1912 the state owned 48,000 continuous acres in Custer County which was then designated as Custer State Forest and later became Custer State Game Preserve.  On March 1, 1919, Peter Norbeck’s vision became reality and Custer State Park was born.

As visitor’s travel the narrow turns and climbs of Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road they travel in the footsteps of Norbeck and, as he said, “You’re not suppose to drive here at 60 miles an hour, to do the scenery justice you should drive at no more than 20.  To do it full justice, you should just get out and walk it.”

From 1933 until 1941, four Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps worked within the borders of Custer State Park.  These men built dams, buildings, roadways and bridges throughout the park.  Several of the larger projects included the creation of Stockade Lake, Center Lake, The Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center, Wildlife Station Visitor Center and Mount Coolidge Lookout Tower.

2019 is Custer State Park’s first Centennial.  They are celebrating with various year long and seasonal events.  They have everything from a scavenger hunt to a trail challenge to a selfie checklist.  They also have a concert series that will take place every second and fourth Saturday of June, July, and August.  Stop by the Custer State Park Visitor Center for more information.

Information for this blog post is courtesy of “Tatanka-The Custer State Park Newspaper”.  If you would like to read more, pick up a copy at the Custer Chamber Visitor Information Center or the Custer State Park Visitor Center. Click here to download a digital copy.  Another great resource for information on the history of Custer State Park is “Custer State Park 100 Years” magazine produced by Southern Hills Publishing.  It can be downloaded here.

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