A Lake, Some Needles and a Bit of Wildlife

As promised, part II of the last post on South Dakota. Let’s start with Sylvan Lake, shall we?

Sylvan Lake dock

The day we were here, it was in the 50s (Fahrenheit) and really windy. After high 80s in the Badlands, we weren’t ready for this and pretty much froze walking on the path below.

Sylvan path

Don’t let the small waves fool you. The wind gusts were up to 60 mph.

The lake is surrounded by rock formations and ponderosa pine trees, and is located in Custer State Park. The wind carries the scent of pine and it’s wonderful.

Random fact: Sylvan Lake was featured in the movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets. The film made the lake appear to be located directly behind Mount Rushmore, when it’s actually five miles southwest of the monument.

I think the clouds look a bit like smoke signals here. . . .

Sylvan clouds

The only problem with Sylvan Lake is getting there. You have to take a very narrow, winding road with sheer drop-offs (sometimes on both sides!). Just down the road from the lake is an area called The Needles with little tunnels like this:

Needles tunnel

If you’re thinking this tunnel looks kind of narrow, you’d be right. Only one car fits at a time, like this one.

Needles tunnel w/ car

That means you have to approach carefully and honk when you’re in the tunnel so cars on the opposite side know you’re in there. Luckily there’s space for backing up, which is exactly what someone had to do for us.

The Needles are named for rock formations that look like–you guessed it–needles. The most famous one looks like the eye of a needle.

Needle eye

The views of the surrounding hills are pretty nice too.

Black Hills from Needles

You will often see ponderosa pines growing in rock.

pines in rock

We drove through Custer State Park and saw this by the side of the road:


Although the terms buffalo and bison are used synonymously, the scientific name for the “buffalo” found in America is bison. The true buffalo are found in Asia or Africa and belong to a different family.
You can take Jeep rides through Custer State Park and see hundreds of them if you want. We just didn’t have time.

But we did see this beauty:


All too quickly, we were back at the Rapid City airport with this view of the Black Hills.

Black Hills from RC airport

Oh, by the way, the Black Hills are actually mountains, and Harney Peak, the highest point is 7,244 feet (2,208 m). That makes it the highest summit in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. The Lakota named them the Black Hills (“Pahá Sapá”) because they looked dark from a distance.

Hope you all had a good weekend. . . .


About pearlsandprose

Photography. With a little life thrown in.
This entry was posted in photography, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to A Lake, Some Needles and a Bit of Wildlife

  1. cocomino says:

    Wow.What a blue color. I like the blue.

  2. flyinggma says:

    We almost got our camper stuck going through the Needles. Only inches to spare on either side as we went through the tunnel. I love that area for scenery and wildlife. Thanks for sharing Carole.

  3. Rajkishore says:

    superb clicks.. cheers!!

  4. Caroline says:

    The first picture did remind me of Switzerland but as soon as we see the rock formations it couldn’t be in Switzerlkand anymore. I saw similar rocks in Spain.
    I like rounded rocks.
    Wonderful pictures, really. Also the animals.

  5. Cheryl says:

    Of course, I’m partial to lakes … and this one is exceptional. Carole, your travel pictures are spectacular. I know you are crazy busy, but you should think travel book ……. Cheryl

  6. jacquelincangro says:

    Looks like a beautiful end to a wonderful trip! I’ve never thought about visiting SD before and you’ve inspired me to go someday.
    Love the shot of the bison. He looks mighty close!

  7. It looks like you had a wonderful trip to the Black Hills and Rapid City. If any of your readers are interested in visiting we have a great deal of visitor information at http://www.VisitRapidCity.com. Did you have a chance to see any of the great attractions in Rapid City?

  8. Patti says:

    Great photos – thanks for sharing! I have relatives who live really near Mt. Rushmore. I’m thinking we need to take a summer camping trip out there sometime in the not-too-distant future.

  9. Lady Jennie says:

    Sigh – so beautiful.

  10. Dounia says:

    Wow, your pictures are fantastic and the scenery is breath-taking. I’ve never been there, but it’s definitely on my list of places to visit now! Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures.

  11. Eric Ludwig says:

    Carole: Now the state is proposing to change the name of Harney Peak to the Lakota name, because Col Harney was allegedly involved with killing indian women and children in Montana. Difficult to pronounce, but like the Sears Tower, it will always be Harney Peak to us.

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