Western Adventures: Dusk in Custer State Park

Legion Lake area in Custer State Park

June 3rd 2022:

After enjoying my early evening stroll through Custer City, I drove back into the boundaries Custer State. As you enter the western park entrance you’ll see signs for Stockade Lake.

Stockade Lake is one of the prettiest places to find solitude and recreation in the park. The largest of Custer’s five lakes, Stockade offers plenty of fun and relaxation.

When we visited in 2009 my mom and I spent several days at Stockade picnicking and watching the ducks on the water. We enjoyed the Stockade Lake Trail together, hiking towards a rocky ridge through a forest of Ponderosa pine, noticing flecks of mica on the rocks and taking in stunning panoramas of the surrounding countryside.

Stockade Lake from hiking trail loop (2009)

Unfortunately I didn’t have a ton of time this trip to enjoy staring into the lake’s rippling crystal waters, but I was able to drive the Stockade Loop Road and get some marvelous views as sunset emerged.

Stockade Lake, like many of Custer’s lakes and infrastructure is intertwined with the Civilian Conservation Corps. I’ll dedicate a future post to the organization and the important work the CCC did during the 1930s in the heart of The Great Depression.

Without the CCC many of our favorite parks and recreation spots would not be what they are today. Even in the tragedy of a economic Depression – the CCC shows what hope and persistence can accomplish. For more insight click here.

Stockade is the only lake in Custer that allows motorized boating.

If you are a camper – it is an ideal location given it’s proximity to Custer sites like Legion Lake and Game Lodge, but you are close to Custer’s grocery shopping.

Stockade Lake includes 3 campgrounds from tent camping to RV sites.

I continued on the road from Stockade Lake to the Legion Lake Lodge. It was remodeled a few years ago, but still has the same character I remember from my visit in 2009.

My mom and I camped at Center Lake – a few miles from Legion and enjoyed stopping by the Legion Lake cafe for breakfast a few times and in the afternoon to check out email (wifi spot) and walk around the lake.

The lodge has a wonderful dining room with lakefront views and a mini-store for nearby campers (Center Lake, etc…). You can rent cozy cabins ideal for a family rendezvous at Custer.

I spent several minutes just starting at the sunset – warm pinks and vivid yellows as they reflected against the water – dancing across the ripples. Standing by a lake is a space of peace.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to make the pilgrimmage to my old camping ground at Center Lake…it is a quiet and relaxing campground set in a wooden hillside. Center Lake is within walking distance and campers have access to showers at the campground facility (near the lake).

You can catch the Grace Coolidge Creek hike from Center Lake or simply enjoy a day by the ‘beach.’

*Note for THEATER LOVERS* The Black Hills Playhouse is also within walking distance of Center Lake. This award winning playhouse has provided tourists top quality entertainment in the Black Hills for over 75 years. Check out the all the drama on their website.

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