June 19 - 22, 2013 – Black Hills, South Dakota

Mariah spent Tuesday night with us and we left Fort Collins early Wednesday morning.  We are staying at Heartland RV Park and Cabins in Hermosa, SD which is just south of Rapid City.

Thursday morning we drove to Rapid City where we both had to renew our driver’s license.  It is hard to believe that it has been 5 years since we moved into the 5th wheel, retired and established our South Dakota residency.  After getting our new driver’s licenses we went to Reptile Gardens.   Our first stop was the snake show where a young man showed us a variety of snakes and gave us a basic snake education.  Mariah really likes snakes and was excited to be able to touch the boa constrictor.

Next we went to the alligator show where another young man told us all about alligators and crocodiles.  He demonstrated some handling techniques and fed them some chicken.  There were about 40 alligators and crocodiles in the enclosure.

We next went to the bird show where we saw a variety of birds and were entertained with talking parrots and a rooster than ran out and grabbed a dollar bill from a girl’s hand.  This beautiful Macaw had a large vocabulary and did a number of tricks.

After lunch at the Green Parrot Café, we went into the dome where most of the reptiles are displayed.  The center portion of the dome was a tropical pavilion with lizards running all over.  There were also quail, exotic birds and many beautiful flowers.

All around the outside of the pavilion were displays with snakes of all kinds, spiders and some large bugs. They had a huge Nile Crocodile that was a movie star – he was in a James Bond movie.

Outside we saw a Komodo Dragon and then went to the Large Tortoise display where we were able to interact with two Large tortoise.  One tortoise weight between 400 and 500 lbs. and this big guy weighed between 500 and 600 lbs.  He seemed to like it when Mariah scratched and rubbed his neck.

We really enjoyed Reptile Gardens and Mariah especially liked the snake exhibits.


We next went to Bear Country which is a drive-through wildlife park.  We saw elk, mountain goats, big horn sheep, dall sheep, buffalo, mountain lions, reindeer and white tail deer.

We also saw four wolves – this wolf was good enough to pose for us as we drove by.

And, we saw lots of black bear – this guy relaxing on a log was the first bear we came upon.

We saw a lot of bears roaming around and as it was mid-afternoon we saw many more lying around – under logs, beside rocks, in dens and just snoozing beside the road.  We estimated they had at least 100 to 150 bears on the property.

After driving through the park we walked around Babyland, an area where younger and smaller animals are displayed.  When we have visited in the past we enjoyed watching the baby bears playing.  Unfortunately, today they only have 4 baby bears and they were sleeping in their buildings so we didn’t get to see them.   We were able to see these arctic foxes sleeping inside a hollow log.

We enjoyed seeing all the animals but decided the next time we visit we will need to come in the morning so more of the animals are out and active.

Friday morning we woke to severe thunderstorm warnings and it started raining about six o’clock and rained most of the day.  It cleared a little so we went to Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  We have been here a couple of times but this is the first time Mariah has seen the memorial.  After watching the film about the memorial we walked the Presidential Trail along the base of the mountain.  Mariah really enjoyed her first visit to Mount Rushmore.

We next went to the Crazy Horse Memorial where we watched a film about the memorial and walked through the Indian Museum of North America, the American Indian Culture Center, the Sculptor’s Log Studio Home and the Sculptor’s Workshop.   It is fun to see how much more has been done on the sculpture each time we come to the Black Hills.

Saturday we drove through Custer State Park and at the beginning of our drive came upon a large group of buffalo walking on the road.  We were excited to see this herd as the main reason we took this drive was to show Mariah the buffalo.  There were a lot of calves with this group and we enjoyed watching the calves feeding and running and playing.

As we were watching the buffalo we noticed this Antelope with a set of twins feeding a short distance up the hill.

Our drive took us on the Needles Highway where we stopped to enjoy the view of the hoodoos.

Mariah enjoyed walking between the spires.

Mariah took our picture as we drove through one of the bridges.

After a great lunch at the Bluebell Lodge (our favorite place in the Black Hills for a buffalo burger) we continued our drive and came upon this burro and her baby.  Across the road was the rest of the herd.  These burros are descendants from the herd that once hauled visitors to the top of Harney Peak.  The rides were discontinued years ago and the burros were released into the park and are now a popular attraction in the park.

We enjoyed this beautiful drive and seeing all the wildlife.   Visiting here in the early summer is great as you get to see all the new babies!


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