Custer History - 12 Mile Ranch
Written by Dolsee Davenport
September 25, 2020

One of the most fascinating historical stories involves the Heumphreus family and 12-Mile Ranch. In 1876 Joe Heumphreus bought some land and cattle, and settled with his wife twelve miles southwest of Custer. Once Joe finished his buildings, he was visited by a representative of the newly formed Cheyenne/Black Hills Stagecoach Company. The stagecoach would be passing right by the front gate of the ranch. Once an agreement for providing overnight services was reached, several cabins were built.  From the very first, Twelve Mile Ranch became a center of hospitality.  Among its early prominent guests was Captain Seth Bullock, organizer of T. Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and for many years United States Marshall for South Dakota.  Seth slept in the bunkhouse as did many others who passed through.  Teddy Roosevelt had stopped overnight at the ranch during his younger days while he was ranching in North Dakota.  Other notable guests who stayed at Twelve Mile were the outlaw Johnny Owens and “El Comancho” (W.L. Phillips) famous painter, writer, and lecturer. 

Jesse James took over one of the bunks for a much-needed sleep after a very long ride.  His short stop at the ranch was not made public at the time.  As the story would go, the African American couple who worked for Joe were southern friends of Jesse James so he went to them first.  The couple asked Joe to give Jesse lodging for the night, but they did not say who the gentleman was.  It wasn’t until Jesse left that they told Joe that their overnight friend was Jesse James.

Over the next 9 years, the ranch became one of the most important rest stops for the Stagecoach. One of the unique log cabins that was a part of 12-Mile Ranch has recently been acquired by the 1881 Courthouse Museum and can be seen in the southeast corner of the Museum’s property.



Fun Things to Do in the Fall in Custer, SD
Written by Dolsee Davenport
September 21, 2020

Fall is one of the best times of the year to be in the Southern Black Hills, and that's because there's an endless amount of things to do!


Check out the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival
The Arts Festival takes place Thursday, September 24 through Saturday, September 26.  The Buffalo Roundup will be on Friday, September 25th beginning at 9:30am.

The rumble starts underfoot as the first of 1,400 buffalo crest the hill.  Before long, the mighty animals are stampeding alongside park personnel, cowboys, and cowgirls, all attempting to herd the animals toward the Buffalo Corrals.  You watch in awe from one of two designated viewing areas as the thundering beats pass within a few hundred feet of you.

Custer State Park has conducted the Roundup and auction for over 50 years.  Once the herd is safely in the corrals, the buffalo are sorted, branded, tested, and then selected for the fall auction.  The Roundup and auction are conducted to keep the bison and the park’s grasslands healthy with the Park’s grasslands only able to support about 1,000 animals through the winter.

The Buffalo Roundup Arts Festival includes three days of endless entertainment along with numerous arts and crafts booths near the State Game Lodge on Hwy 16A.  Visit with artisans and crafters, hear cowboy poets spin tall tales, witness the beauty of Native American dancers, and do some dancing of your own to the area’s best bluegrass and country musicians.  A few local breweries will also be around to top off the fun.

Hike the Crazy Horse Memorial Fall Volksmarch – Saturday, September 26 & Sunday, September 27
This 10K (6.2 mile) round trip hike takes you up the world’s largest mountain carving.  Reach the top to make eye contact with a truly great hero and enjoy a fabulous view of the Black Hills.  Located between Hill City and Custer on Hwy 16/385.  Gates open at 6am.  Registration opens at 8am and closes on 1pm.

Every hiker must register at the starting point, trail closes at 4pm, collectors’ t-shirts and medals available, FREE admission to the Memorial for Volksmarchers (suggested three cans of food per person for the KOTA Care and Share Food Drive), Laughing Water Restaurant will serve breakfast during Volksmarch events, 6-10am.

Take a Scenic Drive

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway – Named for South Dakota’s former governor and US Senator, the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway offers 70 miles of outstanding sights including Mount Rushmore, The Needles Highway, Iron Mountain Road, and Custer State Park.  Visitors may spot mountain goats, bison, deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and turkey.  The Norbeck overlook provides views of Black Elk Peak and many lakes are near the byway.  For those wishing to see more than the road can offer, the byway has several trailheads which lead into the backcountry of the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve and Black Elk Wilderness.

Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway – Gradually climbing from the town of Spearfish on the northern edge of the Black Hills, this canyon is one of the gateways into the heart of an ancient mountain range. Spruce, pine, aspen, birch and oak trees cling to the hillsides. Spearfish Creek flows along the canyon bottom, acting as a natural guide for the scenic byway that follows the creek's contours.

Warm Up with a Drink From a Local Coffee Shop
Cold days call for warm drinks, and the city of Custer is lucky enough to have several options to satisfy your cravings.

Calamity Jane Coffee Shop and Grill offers Frappuccino, smoothies, Italian sodas, hot chocolate, hot tea, chai tea, kombucha, mocha, latte, expresso and of course regular coffee.  In addition to amazing drinks, you can also enjoy a variety of delicious bagels from Black Hills Bagels, cinnamon rolls, muffins, yogurt parfaits and even eggs and bacon for breakfast.  Be sure to stop back in at lunchtime and partake in one of the amazing bagel sandwiches that they have to offer.  

Dino Brew Coffee- located in Good Karma Jewelry offers a variety of coffee drinks including latte, cappuccino, mocha, breve, frappe, hot chocolate, Italian soda, smoothies, slushies and drip coffee. Black Hills Bagels are on their menu as well as some delicious chocolate covered coffee beans.

Miner’s Cup the only drive through coffee shop in Custer is more than just a coffee shop! They do have a walk-up window and online ordering as well.  They feature all the great usual specialty coffees as well as frappes, real fruit smoothies, energy spritzers, energy smoothies, and infused iced tea. There are 5 great breakfast sandwiches as well as cinnamon rolls, croissants and muffins on the breakfast menu.  Their versatile menu also includes hand crafted sandwiches, wraps, salads and pastries.

Wicked Espresso - coming soon!! (next to Bobcat’s Purple Pie Place)

Head out on the Mickelson Trail
The George S. Mickelson Trail, in the heart of the beautiful Black Hills, was completed in September of 1998.  Its gentle slopes and easy access allow people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the beauty of the Black Hills.  Much of the trail passes through National Forest Land, but there are parts of the trail that pass-through privately-owned land, where the trail use is restricted to the trail only.

The trail is 109 miles long and contains more than 100 converted railroad bridges and 4 rock tunnels.  The trail surface is primarily crushed limestone and gravel.  There are 15 trailheads, all of which offer parking, self-sale trail pass stations, vault toilets, and tables.

Activities you can enjoy on the Mickelson Trail: Biking, Hiking, Birdwatching, Cross country skiing (winter)

Take a Hike
There are various hiking trails that can be accessed from the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway (along with many others throughout the southern Black Hills!)

Black Elk Peak – This is the most common trail used to get to Black Elk Summit, which is the highest point in the US east of the Rocky Mountains.  The scenery is beautiful with many look out points along the way, which offers an extraordinary view of the entire Black Hills and surround area. (6.6 miles out & back, moderate to strenuous difficulty)

Cathedral Spires Trail – Beautiful and mystifying, the rock formations along Needles Highway were shaped millions of years ago, eventually eroding into granite pillars known as the Cathedral Spres.  A steep section over boulders earns this trail a strenuous rating, although the grind is worth it for the views. (2.3 out & back – strenuous difficulty)

Little Devils Tower Trail – This spur trail branches off Black Elk Peak Trail #4 and ascends to the unique rock formation known as Little Devils Tower.  Highlights includes views of the Cathedral Spire and Black Elk Peak. (1.5 mile one-way, moderate to strenuous difficulty)

Sunday Gulch Trail – Explore towering trees, colossal boulders, and a gurgling creek in Sunday Gulch, one of the Black Hills’ more unique places. (4-mile loop, moderate to strenuous difficulty)

Centennial Trail – several trailheads can be accessed from the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway – Total, it is an 111-mile trail that will take you through prairies and mountainous areas.  

Norbeck Trail – This is a steep and sometimes rocky trail in the Black Elk Wilderness.  You can hike out and return on the same trail or you can follow Grizzly Bear Trail and Centennial to make a loop hike.  Trailhead is accessible from Iron Creek Horse Camp. (12.6 miles out & back, moderate difficulty)

Iron Creek Trail – An easy route following an old road.  There are 11 water crossings as the trail meanders through a forest of ponderosa pine, oak, aspen, and birch.  Just outside the southern edge of the Black Elk Wilderness.  Trailhead is located right across from Lakota Lake along Iron Mountain Road. (4.8 miles out & back, moderate difficulty)

Cairn Trail – one of Custer State Park’s newest hikes climbs the ridge behind the Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center and loops through scars left by the Galena Fire.  (.3-mile loop – moderate difficulty)

Creekside Trail – A very easy trail accessible to all, including wheelchairs, small children, and even rollerbladers.  Creekside Trail follows Grace Coolidge Creek in Custer State Park and includes several bridge crossings. (5.6 miles out & back, easy difficulty)

Lovers Leap Trail – One of Custer State Park’s most popular trails begins with a steep ascent through ponderosa pine and oak forest.  The trail follows the ridgeline, the highest point being Lovers Leap. (4-mile loop, moderate difficulty)

Celebrate Fall with Flowers
It's always a great day when Fall flowers arrive at our local florist, Jenny’s Floral! Grab a stem or two for your table or better yet, send a fall bouquet to a friend!



Custer History - 12 Mile Ranch
Written by Dolsee Davenport
September 25, 2020



Fun Things to Do in the Fall in Custer, SD
Written by Dolsee Davenport
September 21, 2020



Custer's Coffee Connection
Written by Dawn Murray
August 31, 2020



Custer Restaurants Offering Delicious Meals and Refreshing Drinks
August 26, 2020


5 Unique Western Experiences to Try in the Custer, SD Area
Written by Dolsee Davenport
August 24, 2020



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