Buffalo Roundup

Photo © SD Tourism

Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival

Annual Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup - September 27, 2024

Watch cowboys and cowgirls as they roundup and drive the herd of approximately 1,300 buffalo. Not only is the roundup a spectacular sight to see, it is also a critical management tool in maintaining a strong and healthy herd.

The Buffalo Roundup will begin at 9:30 a.m. MT on September 27, with the parking lots opening at 6:15 a.m. Be sure to arrive early if you want to pick your spot. Guests must stay in the viewing areas until the herd is safely in the corrals, generally around noon. Breakfast is available at 6:15 a.m. in both viewing areas. Lunch is served at the corrals once the buffalo are rounded up. There is a fee for both meals. 

Testing, branding, and sorting of the buffalo begins at 1 p.m. and lasts until approximately 3 p.m. Crews will work the remainder of the herd in October.

What you need to know

  • Bring folding chairs, cameras, binoculars, layered clothing, rain gear, and sunscreen.

  • You will need to determine which viewing area you will be going to prior to Friday morning. All vehicles will depart the way they entered. Motorcoaches welcomed.

    • North Parking and Viewing | Head south from the Game Lodge area on Wildlife Loop Road. (See green path on map.)
    • South Parking and Viewing | Head east on Wildlife Loop Road near Blue Bell campground. (See red path on map.)
  • We encourage that you do not bring your camper. Call 605.255.4515 for drop-off locations. If you do bring it, follow the green route on the map, and you will be parked in the North Overflow Lot and be shuttled to the Roundup.
  • We encourage you to leave your pets at home. If you must bring them, they must remain in the vehicle. 

Roundup Riders

The application for the 2024 Buffalo Roundup can be found here. Applications must be received by May 31, 2024.

Multiple riding positions are open to the general public. Only one application per rider may be submitted, by email or mail. On the application you may indicate if you would like to ride with up to one other person. More than one application will void all applications.

Successful applicants will be notified by June 14, 2024. Chosen riders will be sent additional information and waiver forms. 

Custer State Park has had a long tradition of using private citizens to help with its annual buffalo roundup. The orientation and roundup will include two days of riding. Thursday's orientation ride allows riders to get oriented to the terrain and the buffalo. On Friday, we will drive the herd about 5 miles into the corrals. This is a high-profile public event, with as many as 20,000+ spectators present on Roundup morning.

Successful applicants must provide their own horse. Do not bring horses that are not fit, stallions or late gestation mares, green-broke horses, or horses that have not had extensive outdoor use. Riders will work in teams and take orders from their assigned Team Leader. 

This can be very strenuous work for riders and horses. The terrain is steep and often rocky. This is not a trail ride. For your safety and the safety of others:

  • Horses should be shod.
  • Rough country running should be expected.
  • Horses will work in close proximity to buffalo and must be able to react quickly.
  • Stream crossings may be encountered. 
  • Jumping fallen trees may be necessary.

At a minimum, tack shall include a breast collar; a crupper and flank cinch are also recommended. If horse, rider, or tack is not up to these standards, please do not apply. We are not able to reference or recommend Horse Lease or Rental Agents. 

Accomodations for the Roundup Riders at the park include:

  • French Creek Horse Camp
    • Limited accommodations are available at the French Creek Horse Camp in Custer State Park.
    • Campers must pay the regular camping fees of $40 (+tax) per unit, per night.
    • A valid park entrance license is required. 
  • Participants will trailer their horses to and from horse camp and the starting point on each day. Lunch is provided at the corrals on Friday.

Buffalo Roundup Arts Festival

At the Annual Buffalo Roundup Arts Festival from September 26-28, up to 150 vendors will offer their fine arts and crafts for sale, including many South Dakota made products.

Start your morning with a pancake feed and enjoy on-going Western and Native American entertainment under the big top. All events and vendors will be located on the festival grounds across from the Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center.