On Friday morning, Sept. 28, a few dozen cowhands will put on their boots and saddle their horses. Custer State Park employees will arise before dawn. And thousands from across the state, country and world will gather, all to continue a 53-year tradition.
The Buffalo Roundup is an experience unlike any other. You can feel the ground shake as over 1,000 half-ton creatures stampede across the prairie. Watching the brave riders drive the beasts to their destination is quite incredible. Witnessing the buffalo’s power and speed from such a short distance creates a feeling of being back in the Old West.
At one time, there were 30 to 60 million buffalo roaming North America, but that number fell to fewer than 1,000 in the early 20th century. Although population levels are nowhere near the historical peak, South Dakota buffalo have made a comeback from near extinction, thanks in part to Custer State Park.
Riders will round up a herd of 1,300 buffalo on Sept. 28th, after which about four days are needed to work the herd. Staff will vaccinate and brand the calves, check the cows for pregnancy and identify 250 buffalo for November’s sale.
After the Friday morning Roundup, visitors can stay for lunch and watch staff work the herd. There will be plenty of things to do for those who decide to stay for the weekend. The Arts Festival will continue through Saturday, which is also the day of the Great Downtown Pumpkin Festival in Rapid City and the 1880 Train Oktoberfest Express. Then on Sunday, Crazy Horse Memorial visitors will be permitted to hike to the arm of the mountain carving during an organized Volksmarch.
The Roundup is something every South Dakotan should see at least once. People from all over the world come for this one-of-a-kind experience because there’s nothing like it anywhere else. Consider making this worthwhile journey. I hope to see you there!