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Evening falls over Sylvan Lake.
Evening falls over Sylvan Lake.
Sunset clouds over Sylvan Lake.
Sunset clouds over Sylvan Lake.
Mountain bluebird.
Mountain bluebird.
Burrowing owl.
Burrowing owl.
Red-headed woodpecker.
Red-headed woodpecker.
Afternoon thunder cloud over Sylvan Lake.
Afternoon thunder cloud over Sylvan Lake.
Daisy fleabane.
Daisy fleabane.
Shooting star.
Shooting star.
Eastern swallowtail butterfly.
Eastern swallowtail butterfly.
Evening storm approaching Sylvan Lake.
Evening storm approaching Sylvan Lake.
Sunset along Highland Ridge Road.
Sunset along Highland Ridge Road.
Buffalo calf.
Buffalo calf.
Prairie dog family on alert.
Prairie dog family on alert.
Evening elk in southern Custer State Park.
Evening elk in southern Custer State Park.
Bull bison walking along Highland Ridge Road.
Bull bison walking along Highland Ridge Road.
Pronghorn twins with mom.
Pronghorn twins with mom.
Marmot along the Hell Canyon trail.
Marmot along the Hell Canyon trail.
My last sunset photo over Sylvan Lake.
My last sunset photo over Sylvan Lake.

The Enchanting Black Hills

Jun 29, 2016

This spring I was able to do something I had been wanting to for some time. From Memorial Day weekend to mid-June, the fine folks of Sylvan Lake Lodge of Custer State Park allowed me to sit in as an artist in residence. I got to meet folks from all over the county in the afternoons and evenings. Then was free to roam the area with my camera at night and morning. Two full weeks wandering the Black Hills area is a great gig for a guy and his camera. Believe me.

I love to visit this part of the state in spring. There are wildflowers on the prairie hillsides and newborn wildlife to be seen in prairie dog towns and bison herds. This spring was a little on the dry side so the flowers were a bit harder to find. Even so, there was still plenty of color flying through the air with brilliant mountain bluebirds, red-headed woodpeckers and so much more. It also seemed to be butterfly season. I hiked Hell Canyon near Jewel Cave and was rewarded by seeing one of the largest concentrations of Eastern swallowtail butterflies as well as the all-black American swallowtail.

The real treat for me, however, was hanging out at Sylvan Lake and watching the sky change over one of South Dakota’s prettiest bodies of water. From storm clouds in the afternoon to vivid sunsets in the evening, the view never gets old. Towards the end of my stay, I witnessed an incredible lightning storm approach the lake right as daylight faded. It was calm and cool after a warm day. The music of distant thunder rumbling over the hills and faint scent of rain on the breeze still lingers in my memory. Moments like that aren't few and far between at Sylvan Lake. Maybe that is why it is such a magical place.

Speaking of magic, one of my favorite drives in the world is Highland Ridge Road to Red Valley Road in the northern part of Wind Cave National Park. At early morning or late evening light, you almost always see something amazing. Elk move out into the prairie and coyotes sing to each other while moving through the prairie dog towns. Pronghorn and bison use the road and sometimes walk within a few feet of my vehicle, allowing for interesting close-up photos. One morning this time around, I was lucky to spot a burrowing owl pair in a ridge-top prairie dog town. One was flying scout and the other was in an old burrow with its head not quite halfway out. The owl slowly levitated upwards for about 20 minutes until I could see its whole body, all the while looking towards me with a suspicious eye. When I opened my door to get a better angle the pair flew off to a safer perch. I figured I’d bothered them long enough and decided to move on. Even so, spending an unexpected half hour with these unique birds was magical. As was my two weeks in the area. There’s truly nothing like the Black Hills in spring.

Comments

08:43 am - Tue, August 2 2016
Larry Ayres said:
Thru my 75 years, I never found a more beautiful lake than Sylvan and I have traveled a lot of the world, too. I was first introduced to it by grandparents in about 1946 right after the war. I spent quite a bit of time with them in Hot Springs until their passing in 1953; I was with them for the first explosion for Crazy Horse in 1948, then to Sylvan for the rest of the day.
While in college I spent a lot of leisure time there because it is so serene and peaceful and so close to hike Harney Peak (or whatever it will be known as now). Every time I see it in a photo, I want to go back...maybe for a few hours...even if just in my mind.
09:26 am - Tue, August 2 2016
Kay Turner said:
These pictures evoked wonderful memories of working at Sylvan Lake as a college student many years ago: swimming in the chilly Sylvan Lake water, sunning on the rocks, and hiking back up the wooded hill to the dorm to get ready to go to work as a waitress with kids from all over the United States. A hike up to the fire station on Harney Peak to spend the night on the floor of the station and wake to a brilliant dawn highlighting the wonders of the park as far as the eye could see was a once in a lifetime thrill.
Thanks for the incredible photography and the beautiful memories it triggrered.
Kay Turner
.
12:00 pm - Tue, August 2 2016
Jeff said:
Just beautiful, Christian. As above childhood memories at Sylvan Lake abound. Then two years ago my aging parents and two sisters and I spent a week in SD (my parents are both are natives) and my favorite part was the 1.5 hours we spent at the Lake. Last year at my 60th birthday party one of my sisters suprised me with a black and white she took that day. My favorite art of all time.
04:49 am - Wed, August 3 2016
Bruce Tucker said:
Two years ago, Mary and I, along with our whole family, celebrated our 40th anniversary, on August 16th, with dinner at Sylvan Lake Lodge.
Our youngest daughter and son-in-law toasted their first anniversary, that evening. Custer Park and Wind Cave are amazing. We hiked above Horse Thief Lake, too. (I love the name...)

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