Our journey from Spearfish to Custer State Park started out in a drizzle but had stopped for the most part by the time we got to our intermediate stop: the Bear Country USA attraction about nine miles south of Rapid City on the same road that goes to Mt. Rushmore.It was still cold, in the lower 50s with a stiff breeze as we took the Mothership and Libby for a ride through this wild animal park.
Of all of the wildlife drive-throughs we have experienced, Bear Country USA was the best. It had the largest variety of animals (black bears, grizzlies, elk, caribou, Dall sheep, mountain goats, cougars, Badgers, Red Fox, Raccoons and more). You drive through the park and they had some of the best specimens of the different animals we have seen. The elk had huge racks as did the caribou. They also had large numbers of each species. There must have been over 30 black bears alone. What's unique about the way they operate is the way they handle bear births. Each year the cubs are born while the mother is in hibernation. They allow the cubs to nurse from the mothers until just before the mother wakes up then they take the cub away and wean it from the mother. This keeps the cubs safe from the male bears and also acclimates them to human handling so they can be successfully used in the park or sold to zoos.
After arriving at the campground we quickly set up camp. We only have electricity but it is 50 amps. We have borderline cell service and was able to get the satellite easily. The campground itself is very nice with very large sites. They may be about the same size as Florida State Park campgrounds but they seem larger since there is no growth between sites, just grass.
While we have been here we have driven the 31 mile Wildlife Loop three times, the Needles Highway and the Iron Mountain Highway. If you are ever in this area, you must drive the Needles and Iron Mountain Highways. They are both very winding, up and down mountains, and contain tunnels that are narrow and low. Do not drive the RV on these two. It won't fit through the tunnels on the Needles (one tunnel is 8'4" wide and 12' 0" high) and the tunnels on the Iron Mountain are all about 12' square - a tight fit at best. There are also some very sharp switchbacks that back a long rig difficult to maneuver. But the views are fantastic and well worth the drive.
Tomorrow we start five one-night stands on the way to Elkhart. We plan on stopping in Valentine, NE for the first stop. Blogs on these trips will probably have campground info only unless we run across something really unique.