On Friday morning, a few dozen cowboys will put on their boots and saddle up their horses. Custer State Park employees will get up before dawn. And thousands from across the state, country and world will gather, all to continue a 48-year tradition.
The Buffalo Roundup is an experience unlike any other. Feeling the ground shake as hundreds of the thousand-pound creatures stampede across the prairie and watching the few brave riders drive the beasts to their destination is quite incredible. Being able to witness the buffalo's power and speed from such a short distance makes you feel like you're in the Old West.
At one time, there were about 60 million buffalo roaming North America, but that number decreased to less than 2,000 in the early twentieth century. Although population levels are nowhere near the historical peak, South Dakota buffalo have made a comeback from their near extinction, partially thanks to Custer State Park.
Riders will round up a herd of 1,300 on Friday and it will take about four days to work the herd. Volunteers will vaccinate and brand the calves, check the cows for pregnancy and then identify 300 buffalo for sale in November.
After the Roundup, visitors can stay for lunch and watch the volunteers work the herd. There will be plenty of things to do for those who decide to stay for the weekend. Crazy Horse Memorial is allowing visitors to hike up to the mountain carving during an organized Volksmarch, the Arts Festival will be going on all weekend and the Buffalo Wallow Chili Cook-Off is scheduled for Sunday.
The Roundup is something every South Dakotan should see at least once. People from all over come for this one-of-a-kind experience because there's nothing like it anywhere else in the country. If you haven't been, consider making the journey. I hope to see you there!