SIOUX FALLS, S. D. – Elizabeth Weakland, read updates and scrolled through the photos online of a historic wildfire that began last week in South Dakota, Custer State Park, but the Michigan housewife said that her family does not plan to cancel their summer trip to the Black Hills.
She was afraid that the park campgrounds would be damaged, you may own earlier books, but officials say no buildings or campsites burned. Weakland said her children are excited to go to the west for the June trip, and the family plans to have a website for their pop-up camper after the holiday.
“My children still really want to go out,” Weakland said. “It is a pity that it happened, but we are still just so excited to get it.”
South Dakota tourism officials don’t expect the wildfire to be hurting next year, the number of visitors or presence on the park’s famous buffalo roundup. The park reopened on a limited basis Monday, and officials hope that it’s available for visitors by the weekend.
Tourism Secretary Jim Hagen said a silver lining is that the fire burned in December, not during the season. Hagen said the feedback his office has received from people is scarce, and positive, what he counted as encouraging.
“The visitors, or potential visitors who have contacted us have really rallied around the state and rally around the park,” Hagen said. “I think that when it comes to the high season of late spring, we still see the visitors.”
Custer State Park is a top South-Dakota tourist destination, with hills with ponderosa pine and prairie. Visitors often drive to see roaming buffalo, elk, and bighorn sheep, and the park hosts the annual buffalo roundup. The park had drawn more than 1.9 million visitors by the Nov. 30, and about 21,200 people attended the 2017 roundup, according to the Tourism department.
The fire burned more than 84 square miles (218 square km) in the park and beyond its boundaries since the beginning of a downed power line on Dec. 11. More than half of the park was burned, making it the largest fire in its nearly 100-year history, Superintendent Matt Snyder said.
But he said the blaze consumed the vegetation and grasses without burning it hot enough to sterilize the ground. Snyder said that the moisture in the winter and then make it possible for a “nice green up as we expect every spring.”
Snyder said visitors can expect to see some pockets of trees burned and charred wood, but officials anticipate the majority of the trees come back.
December is a quiet time for the Custer, Snyder said. The park of the four resorts open as normal come spring, with the peak season runs from Memorial Day to the end of September.
“We’re not going to miss a beat about this when it’s time for the tourists to come, and we’re going to be ready for them,” Snyder said.
Minneapolis firefighter Andre Plante, whose family remains in the same Custer State Park cabin every visit, said he was worried for the wildfire would burn it down. But he said that the family still be visited as the cab had not escaped the fire.
Plante said he enjoys sitting outside at night as the moonlight reflects off canyon walls and the wind blowing through the trees. He called it the “chase.”
“We fell in love with it the first time that we were there, and we decided that it is our place for summer vacation,” said Plante, whose family has their cabin booked in June. “I go there about Disneyland a friggin’ day of the week and twice on Sunday.”