Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary

Tuesday, July 3

High on my list of things to see in this part of South Dakota is the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary.  I’ve loved horses since childhood and although my life’s path never included any horses, I still consider them one of the most exquisite forms on the planet.  I go to the Sanctuary’s website and read every word, marvel at every horse photo, and become entranced by the slideshow.  I can hardly wait to see the wild horses!

I call the Sanctuary. 

My plan is for the crew and me to camp in their small RV campground with full hook-ups for one night ($20).  The next morning Bridget and Spike will stay inside the air-conditioned BLT, while I take the two-hour bus tour ($50). This will be so much fun!

The lady at the Sanctuary politely gives me the bad news.  “We aren’t accepting any more campers at this time.  We don’t want too many people here with the forest fires nearby.”

I tell her I understand and put the phone down.

Oh, rats!  This is so disappointing.  I really want to see the wild horses.  They even have Spanish mustangs.  Darn!  It would’ve been a highlight of my visit to the Black Hills. Oh well . . .

Wednesday, July 4

The crew and I are on our way to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary!  At least I’ll get to see the Sanctuary and probably some horses in corrals.  Maybe I’ll be lucky and see a herd of wild horses roaming within view of the road, somewhere on the 11,000 acres.  At the very least it’s a nice ride through more South Dakota landscape.

On the way we approach a road sign announcing “Cascade Falls.”

I notice a small park with several cars in the parking lot, but no people.  Where is everybody? As I pull into the lot, a family climbs out of their car.  Hey, they’re wearing bathing suits!  This looks interesting.

Bridget and Spike are happy to be let out of the PTV for another adventure.  We cross a grassy area to a sign warning us of poison ivy and rattlesnakes.  Past the sign several steps lead down to a small river!  “Oh, Spike, you’re gonna’ love this!  C’mon, let’s go!”

The water is cascading over rocks.

Spike is the first in.  I’m right behind him and then Bridget joins us, too.  It’s Independence Day so working people are here enjoying the holiday.  Most are parents with young children and babies.  Spike and Bridget meet another terrier who also loves the water.  Bridget is in fine form, marching around me on her leash.  The water is a delight for all of us.  When we leave, Bridget jumps around proudly.  Once up the steps, I let her off-leash and she sprints at top-speed to the PTV.  What a cutie she is today!  I think she enjoyed that as much as Spikey!

Not much further and we reach the entrance to the Sanctuary.

A gravel road slices through huge grassland and rolling hills.  I scan the landscape in all directions, hoping for a glimpse.  I see them!  Oh, wow, there they are!  A small herd of horses is grazing at the crest of a hill.  I take some photos.  We pass a one-room schoolhouse complete with outhouse.  There’s another herd!  This group is much larger and further away from the road.  I do the best I can zooming in on them for photos.  Then I sit in the PTV watching them.  It’s so peaceful here.

I park the PTV in the lot next to the gift shop.

Inside I buy a cap embroidered with Black Hills Horse Sanctuary ($14).  The lady at the counter tells me I can go back to the corral area to see some horses there.  The crew is okay in the PTV.  It’s a breezy day, cooler than usual, so I take my time browsing the shop and taking photos of the grounds, including horses, chickens, and a white pigeon that looks like a white peacock to me.

On the way out of the Sanctuary I spot the Spanish mustangs!

I recognize them from the photos on the website.  Such beautiful animals . . . . 

Gee, what a wonderful day this has been!  I’m so glad I didn’t give up and came here anyway.

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P.S.  I hope you’ll take the time to visit the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary website.  You’ll enjoy the rescue stories and the stunning photography.


About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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55 Responses to Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary

  1. butterbean carpenter says:

    Howdy rvsue & crew,
    Sue, that ‘pigeon’, REALLY IS A PEAFOWL!!! Your horse pics are good for a camera you’re mad at!!! Did you put on your bathing suit or just wade in?? The ‘crew’ sure seemed like they were enjoying themselves!! Did you know rattlesnakes like water on HOT DAYS and can SWIM; only
    they hold their ‘rattles’ OUT of the water??? Were those trees part of a forest-fire?? Too bad!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Butterbean!

      I thought it was a peafowl, too! The sign on the pen said White Pigeon. ??? Maybe I shouldn’t believe everything I read!

      I went in the water up to my shorts. I would’ve sat down for a soak but I didn’t want to arrive at the Sanctuary in wet clothes. My theory on the rattlesnakes was all the commotion of people coming and going would keep them upstream or downstream. I wouldn’t have gone down to the riverbank if we were the only ones there!

      The trees were part of a forest fire in an earlier year because grass was growing around the trees. Fire and hail seem to be common in this area. Lightning starts some of the fires.

  2. geogypsy2u says:

    Thanks for the personal and informative tour through this expansive countryside. Those horses are stout and dramatic. Glad you all got to go swimming on the way.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      The swimming was a nice surprise! It really helped make it a great day. The multi-colored horse facing the camera up close wasn’t at the Sanctuary. It was on a neighboring ranch.

  3. EmilyO says:

    The pictures of the Falls make me feel so cool. And, look at all the horses you got to see. Love the buckskin – if my memory serves me right without going back to look. Looks like a “he” and “he is king”. I use to have such exciting dreams about horses when I was a lass. I did own them, broke them, showed them,rodeo’d with them, but my real life horse escapades were never as exciting as my dreams. Thanks for the memories of those days.

  4. What wonderful pictures!!!!!! That looks like a place that I would love to visit. I get so excited hearing and seeing what a wonderful time you and the crew are having. Your blog has given a lot of us the experience of visiting these great places through your eyes and not that of the Chamber of Commerce. Can’t wait to see where WE are going next. Love you!!!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I love you, too, Pauline. And I have fallen in love with South Dakota. I can understand how it must get in the blood of people born and raised here, despite the cold winters. So many horses . . . Huge ranches with cattle and horses . . . The hills are gently rolling . . . beautiful!

  5. d. says:

    Oh so glad you went to IRAM…I discovered it in 2004, and visited again in 2009 (I live in Maine)…Dayton Hyde is a visionary, a hero to wild horses, and if you get a chance, read his books…I would love to send you my copy of ‘The Pastures of Beyond’, he is also a wonderful writer.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I became aware of Hyde’s writing skill by reading the website. His descriptions of the personalities and dramas of the horses and of the landscape of the Sanctuary are a pleasure to read. He’s written children’s books, too. His books are for sale at the gift shop.

  6. cinandjules says:

    In what order did you happen to read the four signs? I’ll guess…dogs must be leashed, CAUTION rattlesnakes…no need to continue….Spikey we’re outta here!

    The water looks very inviting!

  7. klbexplores says:

    I’m so glad you were able to see the horses in the wild. It is almost like a magical dream to see them running wild. I’ve only seen it once but that memory will always stay with me. Thank-you so much for adding another spot on my must see list! I’m hoping that visits like this will help me miss my own horses less.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I didn’t expect to see them running at mid-day in June. That’s okay. I saw them running in the slideshow at the website. The Sanctuary provides a perfect range for the horses. The Cheyenne River runs through the grassland. The horses can go up on ridges and hillsides. There’s plenty of trees for shade. 11,000 acres!

  8. Chuck says:

    You know the Wild Horse Sanctuary is on my bucket list. Didn’t have time 2 years ago to go there, hoping for next year. These isolated herds didn’t have too much outside influence. The Kiger Mustangs in central Oregon have been DNA’d back to the Spanish Arabians and are nicknamed ‘barbs’. The Kigers are a very isolated herd in the Steen Mtns and BLM has a lottery for them to be adopted, they have such desirable traits.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I thought of you, Chuck, while photographing the horses. I know you enjoy horses. The website has some information about the Spanish mustangs at the Sanctuary.

      • Chuck says:

        If you head into Central Oregon, anyewhere near the town of Alfalfa, let me know. There is ranch that you may want to visit… Great pix and that water looked so cool….lucky Spikey but an inflatable pool is on HIS bucket list…..hehheheheeeee

  9. hobopals says:

    BEAUTIFUL pictures, Sue! I’m glad you got to see the horses. For your list of places in the future, if you’re ever in Nevada near Pyramid Lake (pelican roosting area), there’s a Mustang Rescue Ranch. We saw a foal (colt?) born and filmed the whole process. Fascinating the way the other horses helped the baby through the process (which was very scary).

    I knew someone from Sparks (near Reno) who said it was not unusual for horses to become a nuisance roaming neighborhoods.

    On the way up and down from Reno to LV, we saw a number of wild herds running across the desert. Incredible
    site to see that cloud before discovering what is making it.

    I once saw a documentary called “Cloud”. It was a documentary about the wild herds–some of it pretty graphic in case you’re adverse to that, but a wonderful story.

    Again, enjoyed your slide show, immensely.

  10. rvsueandcrew says:

    I didn’t go on the bus tour. Instead I watched this video. What a beautiful horse!

  11. hobopals says:

    Should have looked this up before. I apologize for the second post. For your reading enjoyment.

  12. Wayne says:

    Great stuf as always. Makes our future plans a bit easier to pick things for the must seelist.

    Thanks as always. Have to ask – where to next?

    W & R

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Well, Wayne . . . I’m tempted to say “Wait for the next exciting episode of rvsue and her canine crew!” But that wouldn’t be nice . . . . Our next destination is Bear Butte!

      • jopappa says:

        Well…… Yep, I will get the next exciting post for sure but was just curious about the planning. I know it is hot now, but the next 6 or 8 weeks will have that changing there? The real question is where do you see yourself in Oct – to – March? Generally?

  13. PamG from VA says:

    Bear Butt? Shame on you! Oh ho!

  14. mary strasser says:

    glad you listened to your instincts and went to see the horses. But do be careful of the rattlesnake warnings! The fact that the others were there indicated it was pretty safe or they would not have been there.

  15. Beth says:

    A bit further north, I’m sure you would love the horses at Teddy Roosevelt National Park’s south unit in Medora, ND. Although they aren’t mustangs (they date back to early settlers), they have developed their own unique markings amongst the herd. You can drive the park roads in your PTV and search them out.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I want to see and experience everything! I do think I need to be careful not to overextend myself. I enjoy slow travel , , , and I want to visit Yellowstone and the Tetons this summer, plus another National Park in Utah. It’s tempting to visit Teddy Roosevelt NP, too, since I don’t know when I’ll be this close again. So many choices!

  16. Elizabeth says:

    Snakes are not supposed to like a lot of noise, so with the people there splashing around and playing surely they would have gone for cover someplace else…glad you got to do some fun things in spite of things not going just as planned. That is how life is a lot, isn’t it? We have to look for the fun stuff in some alternate way!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I love surprise fun, like coming across Cascade Falls. It was nice that Bridget and Spike got to do something fun, too. I had no idea the crew and I would be playing in water when we left our campsite in the morning.

    • DesertHawk says:

      Actually snakes do not hear (no ears), but they will shy away from vibration. Good to kind of stomp as one walks to warn them you are coming. They smell with their tongues as well, why the tongue is forked & they flick it in & out so often.

      Old saying, says, the 3rd one to walk by a snake will be bitten…..might be some truth in it, but not a certainty. A good friend, tells of two friends & himself going on their first rattlesnake hunt in the Texas Panhandle. He & one friend walked by a bush, the 3rd one was bitten. End of my friend’s rattlesnake hunting adventures.

      When it is a warm, sunny day….watch the places with shade. It is a cool, day more likely to be out sunning themselves.

      Never put you hand in a spot you can not see if it occupied. Many people climbing rocky areas are bitten on the hand when searching for a nice handhold.

  17. phxkayaker says:

    Just an off topic thank you for your mention of using Bounce sheets to get the bugs off the front of the trailer. I mentioned it in my blog. We’re enjoying Yellowstone now and headed further north soon.

  18. Sherry says:

    Your slide show pictures are wonderful. I sure wish blogger would offer that option. I’m too lazy to move my blog. I can hear the joy in your words and see the smile on your face. What a great time you are having and life you are living. It’s always fun to read your blog.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      It’s always fun to hear reactions to my blog. Thanks for writing.

      Yeah, the crew and I enjoyed ourselves. I must have said “What a great day” to myself ten times or more by nightfall. Some days turn out special.

  19. Llanos says:

    What a life! If someone has to live it, it may as well be you. Like the Cascade Falls pictures.

  20. Just started following your blog….and I’m enjoying it immensly. Thanks for sharing.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hello, Kay!

      Welcome! I’m glad to hear you enjoy my blog. I try to blog every day. Lately I haven’t done so because of a dying computer. The darn thing finally croaked…. Yay! It’s great to once again have a laptop that has all its keys!

  21. Glenda Cornwill says:

    Thanks Sue for showing us the Black Hills Wild horse sanctuary……………..loved the phots of the horses……….love your blog, from a horse lover in Australia!!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Glenda in Australia . . . Hello!

      The Sanctuary is definitely a highlight of my Black Hills visit. My photos are crummy compared with the ones on the Sanctuary’s website. Glad you enjoyed them anyway.

      • Glenda Cornwill says:

        I have been following your travels for some time and am green with envy of your life style, travelling your wonderful country with your faithful companions. Being a dog lover and a horse lover I had to comment for the first time!!

  22. Casitagirl says:

    Hi Sue!

    Just wondering how you and the crew are holding up with all this summertime heat. We just took our Casita for its first trip–to the Georgia coast to visit our son, who just moved down to St. Simons Island. We first stayed at a fishing camp along the Altamaha River near Brunswick, then the campground at Jekyll Island. We found out how well the air conditioner works–our black cocker spaniel melted every time we went outside. It was perfectly pleasant inside the Casita. I kept thinking that we would get used to the heat if we were full timing, but wondered how you are managing.

    I enjoy your blog so much. Thanks for sharing your adventures!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Casitagirl,

      Sounds like you’ve been having some summer fun! Isn’t the Casita a/c wonderful? It cools so fast.

      As for the crew and me, we’ve been fine without a/c. A few days at Cottonwood Campground (Hot Springs, SD) were really hot, so I found places to go in the afternoon so we could soak up the PTV’s air conditioning. Everything cooled down considerably over night and that coolness lingered in the mornings. The crew and I went withot a/c for many years in Georgia so it’s not difficult for us.

  23. Ms Minimal says:

    Hi Sue! I have been following your blog for about a month now, and you are the only thing keeping me sane as I try to figure out how to live my life on the road. 🙂 Love your “crew”… reading about your adventures (you’re a great writer!!) and watching you and your dogs enjoy life. Keep up the great blog and enjoy every single day. 🙂 I’ve just started a blog, and have enjoyed it so far…..

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hello, Ms. Minimal . . . cute name!

      Welcome to my blog! I hope my blog helps you live successfully on the road. Good luck blogging, too. If you stick with it, you’ll find it’s addictive.

  24. DesertHawk says:

    I remember looking Bear Butte State Park up when my son & his family did an overnight there a few years ago:
    {Mato Paha or “Bear Mountain” is the Lakota name given to this site. To the Cheyenne, it is “Noahvose.” This geological formation is one of several intrusions of igneous rock in the Black Hills that formed millions of years ago. The mountain is sacred to many American Indian tribes who come here to hold religious ceremonies. Please be respectful of worshippers and their religious practices.

    A Sacred Mountain
    Many American Indians see Bear Butte as a place where the creator has chosen to communicate with them through visions and prayer.

    During your visit, you will see colorful pieces of cloth and small bundles or pouches hanging from the trees. These prayer cloths and tobacco ties represent the prayers offered by individuals during their worship. Please respect these offerings and leave them undisturbed.}

    If you happen to go to Devil’s Tower & walk on the trail at the base of the tower, you may also find these pieces of cloth, etc. They were when we visited in 2006.

  25. Debbie Hearne / California says:

    Hi Sue, we just parked our rv at home today after a five week trip to South Dakota and Wyoming.
    We were hoping to meet you and the crew in Utah but missed you. I’ve been trying to catch
    up on your blog and read about the shortage of elk. We noticed that also, in Custer the problem
    is mountain lions, in Yellowstone the problem is the wolf packs, we were told this by the Park Rangers. We did see 3 bull elk in Wind Cave National Park below Custer State Park and 4
    bull elk and several cows with babies in Yellowstone. This year we saw a lot of moose in
    Yellowstone, in Cooke City and in Montana outside of Yellowstone. We camped at Legion Lake in
    Custer and every moring from 2:30 a.m. until about 8:30 a.m. we had bison all around our
    trailer eating grass. We know this because our 7 lb poodle Molly felt it was her duty to sound
    the alarm every morning when they showed up. Enjoy your trip, that is one of my very favorite
    parts of the country.


    • rvsueandcrew says:

      So apparently the elk don’t see me coming and go hide! Good to know!

      Gee, seems like we could have bumped into each other somewhere along the way. Isn’t Custer State Park wonderfu? I love that place.

      Your Molly sounds like Bridget and Spike. Spike looks out the window as soon as he wakes up to see if there’s something he can bark at.

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