Views of Nature Photography
Part of the crowd and "crowd control"
Finally got 'em turned around and headed in the right direction
Just milling around
In June October of 2017 we travelled north from Colorado to South Dakota to spend time at Badlands National Park and to witness the 52nd annual bison roundup at Custer State Park.
Badlands NP is located about an hour east of Rapid City, near the town of Wall, SD. The park is divided into three units that cover just under a quarter of a million acres. The north unit is the easiest to explore as there is a paved road running east from the Pinnacles entrance (about 8 miles south of Wall) to the Northeast entrance, about 30 miles. There is also a gravel road running from just south of the Pinnacles entrance westward to Scenic, SD. Both roads have numerous scenic overlooks. The Stronghold and Palmer creek units have few if any roads and a seasonal Visitor Center. These two units are both within the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation. We spent all our time in the North Unit along the paved road. In addition to the geologic formations for which the Park is famous, there are many distinct species of wildlife ranging from prairie dogs to pronghorn, coyotes, bison and big horn sheep. The Park Service website has links to brochures, maps and informational papers on things like photography, geology and archeology of Badlands. Go to their website https://www.nps.gov/badl/index.htm and click on info and then brochures.
Just about there!
Badlands and Bison
After our time in the Badlands we drove to Custer with a short detour to Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument. Custer State Park, encompassing about 71,000 acres, is located just south and west of Rapid City near the town of Wall. In addition to the bison there are mule and white-tailed deer, pronghorn, some elk, big horn sheep, mountain goats (introduced in 1924), coyotes, mountain lions and black-tailed prairie dogs. There are a number of wild, or more accurately feral, burros that are descendants of a herd released many years ago when a burro ride attraction closed. The park habitats range from grassland (where the bison are) to riparian and conifer forest.
The bison roundup is quite an event with, as one of the Rapid City TV stations reported, about 20,000 people observing. These wild critters are rounded up once a year for two reasons. The new calves are branded and vaccinated and a number of animals are selected for auction. This culling is so the herd size can be matched to the carrying capacity of the range. (No supplemental food is provided to the herds.)
The viewing of the roundup is fairly well controlled with a north and a south viewing area. Each has a parking area, an open area on a hillside, plenty of portapotties, and a tent where a pancake breakfast is available. The actual roundup is done by a combination of mounted wranglers, pickup trucks and ATVs herding about 1000 head of bison into a series of corrals. When the animals entered a small valley from where they were grazing they proceeded to move up a hill rather than down the range to the corrals. The wranglers met the challenge and turned them back down to the valley and on into the corrals. This was an exceptional visual experience with the fall coloration of the trees and the general landscape, as well as an exceptional auditory experience with the whoops, whistles and cracks of whips in the air.
http://gfp.sd.gov/state-parks/directory/custer/default.aspx is the Park website and http://gfp.sd.gov/state-parks/directory/custer/events/buffalo-roundup/default.aspx will take you right to the Bison Roundup page.
A few more coming out of the dust
The geologic formations
The first bison - ahead of the rest of the herd
Sunset from Pinnacles ovelook
Images of Nature - Instruction - Workshops
In the corrals and ready for the brands and shots.
Heading up the hill - away from the corrals
Mule deer and bighorns
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Wranglers on their way to "head 'em off"