The instant I found out we would be headed to Rapid City for Pastors Conference and that we would have an afternoon to be tourists, I knew I had to return to Bear Country. I visited Bear Country in the summer of 2002 on a family road trip and remembered it being a highlight of our trip. I just had to return even though part of me worried it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as an adult. I was wrong to be worried, because we had a blast driving through the park this past fall.
When you arrive at Bear Country USA, located just south of Rapid City, you enter through admission gates. They provide you with a map and lay out the rules (like no open windows or sun roofs on your vehicle. From this point on you drive through the park at you leisure through the various types of animal sections, seeing as how Bear Country is home to more animals than bears. Despite it being an unusually warm fall day, we were lucky enough to see animals in each of the areas, beginning with the elk and reindeer.
Lucky for us again was the fact that we were some of very few visitors to the park since it was the off season. This meant we could drive as slow as we want and really enjoy the animals and get some decent pictures of them from our car. The arctic wolf was just hanging out on this large rock.
Next up was the Big Horn Sheep and Mountain Goat area. We were able to get quite close to them as they were sitting right at the edge of the road.
After this we reached the bear section. This is where we discovered traffic to be quite backed up as the bears were everywhere. Some were swimming in the water, others were halting traffic as they crossed the road. There were hundreds of photo ops, but I picked the best few to display here on the blog.
Now don’t be disappointed, while Bear Country allows the black bears to roam about in the open area, you also can see a Grizzly while visiting as well. After you leave the open driving tour, you can park down by their gift shop and walk around the Wildlife Walkway. The first enclosure we visited was the grizzly, who was taking advantage of the warm weather and enjoying a nice swim.
The wildlife walkway is home to several other woodland animals including a badger, porcupine, bear cubs, foxes, and wolves. Despite the heat, all the animals were roaming about their enclosures.
It was feeding time for the bear cubs, who by this late in the season were actually quite large. They gave quite a fight to each other over who should get to eat the food. We also were lucky enough to have baby wolf pups there when we visited. This is not always a standard thing to expect when you visit Bear Country, so I’m glad we got to visit when we did.
At $18/adult and $12/child, Bear Country can seem like an expensive outing, but it is so worth the cost. What better way to experience wildlife up close, yet from the safety of your vehicle and see some other cute animals at the end. There’s no time limit to driving along the road, although I’m sure if it’s busier you’d feel pressured to drive through quicker, so I recommend visiting in either spring or fall to have a more peaceful and leisurely visit.
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