The Black Hills, South Dakota: Part I


I love the the Black Hills. I love this mountain range that seemingly rises out of nowhere in the middle of flat plains. I love the varied landscape and that you can climb to heights where some of the oldest rocks on earth can be found.

But there is one famous feature that the Black Hills are known for that you won't see here. Mount Rushmore won't be making an appearance here. Why? I wasn't really interested in seeing it. I managed to circumnavigate this amazing place without ever actually laying eyes on it. I know. Shocking. But that's the truth. I was here to see wildlife and, if I wasn't seeing that, I was exploring the geological depths of these hills.

So, after spending a wonderful morning photographing horses I took another nap (I love to sleep in the middle of the day, if you haven't already noticed) while I waited for the late afternoon sun. One thing I learned quickly is that mid-day in the Black Hills the sky goes dead in terms of good photographic light. Mid-day is never great for photography but it goes really dead here. It's kind of fascinating.

First, I headed north to Wind Cave National Park. This is one of the oldest National Parks in the U.S. Wind Cave is one of the longest and most complex caves in the world. 143 miles of tunnels are known and more are explored all the time. The cave is known for boxwork and Wind Cave contains more boxwork formations than all other caves in the world combined. Sitting on top of this cave are the remnants of vast mix-grass prairies that once dominated this area, the open plains the United States is famous for that now no longer exist.
 
Continuing north, you end up in Custer State Park. Custer State Park is known for the abundance of wildlife that lives within its 71,000 acres. The park is especially famous for its nearly 1,500 bison. This day I drove and wandered the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road.

And then I took the exact same route backwards to get back to the ranch.


Pronghorn. I have no idea why the male choose to rub his head on a thistle plant. If only pronghorns could talk.


Pronghorn, female


Pronghorn, females


Black-tailed prairie dogs


Baby burro nursing. Burros are not native to this area. The now wild burros of Custer State Park are the descendants of burros that were used to transport visitors to the top of Harney Peak. They were released into the park when the rides were discontinued.

Burros causing a bit of a traffic issue. People feed them (which they shouldn't) and thus they are very fond of blocking traffic.


Burro


Burro

Pronghorn male enjoying the evening sun.







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