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Sunday, December 29, 2013

State Game Lodge: Summer White House

Delve into the mystery and majesty of the Black Hills in Murder in Custer State Park.

Step back in time to the Roaring 1920s, the year is 1927 and Custer State Park is on the precipice of being thrust onto the national stage, laying a foundation for South Dakota's Tourism Industry today. 

For years, Peter Norbeck has fastidiously worked to raise awareness about the natural splendor and wonder of the Black Hills.  On his agenda, to gain federal funding for the construction of Mount Rushmore. 

Norbeck believes that if President Coolidge can witness the majesty of Custer State Park and the Black Hills in person, his doubts about Federal Funding for the region will be alleviated.  Norbeck invites his good friend, President 'Cool' Cal Coolidge to spend a three week summer vacation in Custer State Park at the gracious State Game Lodge. 

Designed by architect Cecil C. Gideon, and constructed from 1919-1922, The State Game Lodge is an immaculately built lodge of stone and Black Hills wood. The lodge is set in a pristine valley, surrounded by thick ponderosa pine and 'Grace Coolidge' Creek.  It is a popular hotspot for the park's bison population. 

Senator Norbeck pulled all stops to ensure that The Coolidge family was enchanted by Custer and The Black Hills.  He even stocked 'Grace Coolidge' Creek with fish every night to ensure, the angling President would reel in dozens of fish.  The Coolidges' quickly fell under Custer's spell.  The President extended his three month vacation from three weeks to three months.  He ordered his staff to come to Custer State Park, while the Press Corps stationed themselves in the current Grace Coolidge General Store. 

It was during President Coolidge's stay that the penny-pinching leader was wooed to order sponsor the creation of America's monument: Mount Rushmore.  Coolidge's visit garnered national attention, which propelled increased tourism to South Dakota. 

In 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower vacationed for several days at the State Game Lodge, making it a true lodge for Presidents. 

The State Game Lodge is the ideal place to stay in Custer.  It offers a variety of stately rooms with rustic Dakota touches.  It's partner hotel, the modern Creekside Lodge, is open year-round and offers 30 luxurious lodge rooms, lobby and meeting rooms. Merritt and Josh (Murder in Custer State Park) use the Creekside Lodge's Wi-Fi when solving the Custer murders.

If you prefer to rough it, The Game Lodge area is home to a well-sited campground with electric and non-electric sites.  My only tip is if you camp at Game Lodge, be wary of the bison.  They often meander through camp and are deadly if you get too close.  For this reason I recommend the nearby Grace Coolidge Campground or Center Lake, Blue Bell, Legion or Stockade Lake campgrounds.

The State Game Lodge restaurant is fine dining and homegrown Dakota food that appeals to a variety of palettes.  All bison served in the restaurant comes from Custer's Bison population.  They also have artist in residence in the hotel gift shop.

The Grace Coolidge General Store is your first stop for all gifts, merchandise and camping supplies for your Custer State Park Adventure.

Things to do in Game Lodge Area:
- Peter Norbeck Visitor Center: Josh Ford worked at this VC - it is your go-to source for all things Custer, from the ecology, Junior Naturalist program, Gold Panning demonstrations, park history...A must stop in Custer.
- Picnic areas - there are numerous picnic areas in the Game Lodge area where you can take in the scenery, breathing in the fresh mountain air.
- Buffalo Safari Jeep Rides and Chuck Wagon Cookout: takes you from State Game Lodge to the park's backcountry, an exciting open air adventure to see park wildlife, with educational and historic commentary.
-Mountain Bike Rentals
-Nightly Programs in the Barn
-Hiking: Get into the backcountry - hike The Lover's Leap Trail, Creekside Path...
Book your vacation to Custer State Park for 2014.  The State Game Lodge is booked up months to years in advance, so plan accordingly. 
-The Wildlife Loop - start the wildlife loop (18 miles) from State Game Lodge, through prairie wild land up to Blue Bell then back again. You'll be treated to Begging Burros, Pronghorn, Mule Deer and Prairie Dogs

For more information about planning your Custer vacation:

And don't forget to pick up your copy of 'Murder in Custer State Park.'

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