6 6 hen it comes to recreation, Custer County offers oppor- tunities for everyone, no mat- ter what their interests, age or abilities. Covering an area 125 miles long and 70 miles wide, Custer County boasts pine- clad cliffs, clear running streams and reservoirs, sheer granite peaks and rolling prairies. Outdoor enthusiasts will find 1,300 miles of blue-ribbon streams, more than 350 miles of trails, 11 reservoirs and two national scenic byways in the National Forest. Exceptional outdoor recreation in the area includes fishing, hunting, boat- ing, rock climbing, mountain biking, snowmobiling, horseback riding, hiking, wildlife viewing, photography and rock hunting. Central to the county is Custer State Park, the second-largest state park in the United States. The park encompasses 71,000 acres and accommodates the largest publicly-owned bison herd in the world which ranges freely throughout the park. Visitors to the park can enjoy scenic drives, fishing, swimming, hiking, camp- ing and relaxing in the four mountain lodges. The sheer granite spires of the Needles are popular among rock climbers, while the gently winding Wildlife Loop Road and annual Buffalo Roundup provide less strenuous recreation. The Black Hills National Forest is home W to 7,242-foot-high Black Elk Peak, the highest point east of the Rocky Moun- tains. Wind Cave National Park also boasts free-ranging bison herds, nature trails and has the sixth-longest cave in the world. Hunting includes pheasant, gray par- tridge, dove, rabbit, squirrel, ruffed grouse, geese, mountain lion, deer and elk (firearm and archery), antelope (firearm and archery), turkey, prairie dog, coyote and fox. Brown trout, bullhead, rainbow trout, perch, catfish, sauger, small and large- mouth bass, brook trout and black crap- pie can be reeled in from the numerous creeks, lakes, ponds, rivers and dams in the county. Fishing areas include Battle Creek, Beaver Creek, Berner Lake, Bis- marck Lake, Center Lake, Cheyenne River, French Creek, Grace Coolidge Dams, Iron Creek, Biltmore (Lakota) Lake, Legion Lake, Stockade Beaver Creek, Stockade Lake and Sylvan Lake. The 114-mile-long Mickelson Trail, honored as one of the “Best of the Mid- west,” runs through Custer County with a spur into Custer State Park. There are more than 100 converted railroad bridges and four hard rock tunnels along the trail. Custer State Park and the Black Hills Na- tional Forest have a multitude of trails, ranging in difficulty from moderate to strenuous. A popular hike goes to the top of Black Elk Peak, from which one can see five states. A recently constructed hiking trail goes from the Custer Area Chamber of Commerce up to “Big Rock” overlook- ing Custer City. For golfing enthusiasts, a nine-hole golf course, Rocky Knolls, is located just west of Custer. A disc golf course on Pag- eant Hill is a popular activity. Custer also has a municipal swimming pool. The lakes in Custer State Park are also popular for swimming, paddle boating and/or kayak- ing. Horseback riding is popular in Custer County because of the many acres of Na- tional Forest land. Many bed and break- fasts and lodges encourage visitors to bring their own horses, but trail rides are also available at Blue Bell Lodge in Custer State Park, Rockin’ R Rides at Heritage Village and Hollingsworth Horses. In the eastern part of the county are the Fairburn Agate Fields where rock hounds search for the prized Fairburn agates, South Dakota’s state gem. Custer County offers abundant wildlife in its nat- ural habitat and scenic vistas for photog- raphers. Custer is a shopper’s paradise, so whether it is an American Indian shop, a distinctive, locally-made product, a one- of-a-kind piece of art or an antique unique to the Black Hills, it is just waiting to be discovered in one of Custer’s unique shops.