Frequently Asked Questions
How many bison are there in the herd?
There are approximately 1,300. Note: The big bull bison are not included in the Roundup because they are more aggressive and are simply hard to round up. Because of this, visitors may see them scattered throughout the park during the Roundup weekend.
Why are the bison rounded up?
The Buffalo Roundup is part of Custer State Park's management plan to maintain a healthy balance between the number of bison and the available rangeland forage. The park can only sustain a certain number of bison, based on the condition of the grassland and how much food is available. The Buffalo Roundup also allows for some of the animals to be sorted out of the herd, they are then sold at an auction in November.
What happens to the bison after they’re in the corrals?
Once placed in the corrals, park staff sorts out approximately 300 animals to be sold, vaccinates the new members of the herd, brands the new calves, and checks the cows for pregnancy. It takes about four days to work the entire herd.
How early should I get there?
Parking lots open at 6:15 a.m. the day of the Roundup (but be prepared to wait in line). Visitors who are in the park by 7:00 a.m. will have plenty of time to get to the viewing areas. The Roundup does not start until 9:30 a.m.
Are reservations required?
Does it cost anything?
There is no admission fee for the event and a park entrance license is not required the day of the Buffalo Roundup.
Are food and drinks available?
Pancakes, sausages and beverages are available at 6:15 a.m., in both viewing areas. Lunch is served, until 2:00 p.m., at the corrals once the buffalo are rounded up. There is a fee for both meals.
What should I bring?
The weather can vary. Be sure to bring sun screen, layered clothing, folding chairs, binoculars, snacks and drinks. Custer State Park has compiled a number of helpful tips for visitors, so be sure to look them over.
Is there handicapped parking available?
Yes. Visitors should clearly display their parking emblem so they can be directed to the right area.
Are there shuttles?
Shuttles are available after the Roundup for those visitors wishing to go down to the corral area.
Which viewing area is best?
Both viewing areas have unique vantage points and visitors get great views from either location. Visitors may not move between viewing areas.
How long does the event take?
The Roundup is generally over by 11:30 a.m., but visitors need to be prepared to stay in the viewing areas until the bison are safely in the corrals.
How are the horseback riders chosen?
Some are Custer State Park staff, others have been long time riders. Up to 20 volunteer cowboys and cowgirls are selected each year through an application process. For more information, contact the Custer State Park Office at 605-255-4515.
Is there anything else going on?
Fun activities continue the entire weekend following the Roundup. The Buffalo Roundup Arts Festival, with up to 150 vendors, is held Saturday and Sunday near the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center. Saturday features the annual Cabela’s Challenge Dutch Oven Cook-off and Sunday’s highlight is the annual Buffalo Wallow Chili Cook-off.