Archives for October 2016

South Dakota’s Buffalo Roundup

baby bison and mother

Courtesy South Dakota Dept. of Tourism

You’d think you’re in a Western movie. Cowboys and cowgirls crack whips in the air, dust swirls, horses whinny–and then you hear it: the thunder of hooves coming out of the Black Hills.

Custer State Park bison roundup

Courtesy South Dakota Dept. of Tourism

Put the annual Bison Roundup, held in South Dakota’s Custer State Park, on your bucket list. I had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see it while on a press tour. I rode, standing up, with other writers and photographers, in the back of a pick-up truck as we bounced across the grasslands, following the wranglers. (We held onto to safety rails as we hit stumps and prairie dog holes, or there might have been some headlines about trampled journalists.)

South Dakota Bison roundup

Courtesy South Dakota Dept. of Tourism

Riding alongside the bison–and these are American bison, although most of us call them buffalo –is a don’t-miss experience. Cowboys and cowgirls have to prove their skills to ride in this yearly event, when 1,300 of these massive animals are pushed into corrals to be counted and vaccinated. First year babies, or calves, are branded.


Courtesy South Dakota Dept. of Tourism

Custer is a 71,000-acre park, but the land can only support a set number of bison, so some are auctioned off. The rest are set free to roam the park again.

Cowboy at bison roundup

The 2017 roundup is scheduled for Sept. 29, and it typically draws a crowd of 20,000 or more. If you go, take a chair or blanket to spread on the ground, so you can watch from the hillside. It’s free and open to the public, but you can buy a pancake breakfast while you wait for the action to start, or hang around afterwards for a bison BBQ lunch, if you’re hungry. Bring your binoculars, video recorder, and camera, because these are memories worth keeping.