Tuesday, August 20, 2013

2013 Western Trip – Rafter J

After our one day lay-over in West Salem, WI, we continued our journey west with an overnight stop at Camp America in Salem, SD then pressed on to our first big stop in Hill City, SD.  It was hard to believe how different SD looked this year as the lush green crops and pastures and full farm ponds had replaced last years everything-was-brown look and the ponds were empty.  The difference is dramatic.

We stayed at the Rafter J Bar Ranch Mountain Resort (5200’) just south of Hill City, SD and chose it because our friend Russ and his daughter, Cynthia, stayed here last year and spoke favorably of it. 

It's a bit pricey at $54/night, less Good Sam's discount, but it is ideally located for what we want to do.  It's two miles from Hill City, about eight miles to Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse, eleven miles to Custer State Park, and 45 miles to Deadwood (Casinos).

The campground is huge with seven different camping areas for different kinds of rigs, both open and wooded sites, and two of them have cabins for those without camping gear.  The amazing thing to me is the amount of space between these areas and the amount of space between the camp sites.  

These shots are from our site across a large field (150-200 yds.) to three of the other areas, with the office on the right of the last one.

There is nearly enough room between our neighbor and us to put in another site in the big rig area that we are in – Line Camp site 267.

This shot is from the other side of the campground back to our area with our rig on the far left.

It appears that the perfect site for us is across the field, where the big Prevost is parked, as it has a clear shot at both the TV satellite and the wi-fi tower and it has a wooded hill side to the west for afternoon shade.  We are facing west and have to keep moving around to stay in the shade – I’ll request site Lower Ranch Camp site 176, if we stay here again. 

While it would ruin the ranch feel of the place, they could easily triple the number of sites if business dictates– I hope they don’t.  They have a very nice pool, playgrounds, and even have on site fuel pumps.

The one sad note is the devastation the Mountain Pine Beetle continues to inflict in the West as seen on the hill above the camp.
Photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


8/16/2013 event date


  1. When I think of out west, I think of "plenty of room," so I hope they don't enlarge the size either Larry. Nice grounds. Those pine bark beetles are very destructive. Hope they never visit us.

  2. Did I forget to tell you that we've had a ton of rain over the last month or so?

  3. I actually like that there is so much room at the campsite. We, as humans, tend to fill as much open space as we can, so it's nice to see less clutter from time to time :)

  4. $54 a night - WOW. The only time we've paid anywhere near that much is in DC. But it definitely looks like a beautiful campground. Montana is still quite green for August also. But today it smells like a campfire outside because of the big fire in Idaho. Hope that clears up before you get here.

  5. We stayed just north of your park at Creekside Mountain Campground but know your park well as we road bicycles up there one day and looked around. We had never seen a campground with as much green space. We agree that it is great that SD has had rain this year and is green!

  6. Oh how I wish I were back there again....
    If you eat the buffalo ribs at Desperado's, please say a big HI to Dan from Cynthia and me!

  7. Love the space of the CGs out here in the West. The one you're in today looks very nice. Here's to having a great Western Trip.

  8. Those darn beetles have done a number on trees in Kentucky also... We saw it ALOT when we were at Pine Mtn. State Park.

    Hope you enjoy Custer... Drive through and feed the burros.... AND--don't forget the Needles Highway...


  9. The beetle destruction is sad. The rv park looks great - I love the space between sites.

  10. The green is amazing! It's stunning how quickly that area shows its lack of water, and how fast it recovers, too.

  11. Larry, It's green where you are now...not so much as you head west. As we saw during our Alberta visit, the beetles have invaded western Canada too! Try to stay away from all of those forest fires... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

  12. I like the new header photo. The Black Hills are pretty country. My daughter and I did a road trip there a couple of years ago. We enjoyed hiking around Sylvan Lake and did the Harney Peak hike as well. The free ranging Buffalo were a treat. Enjoy!

  13. This looks like a great place to stay. It's nice that you had some space around your site and didn't have to worry about close neighbors. It's too bad about the beetle.

  14. The Meyer Ranch is actively working on a pilot program with the forestry service and so far not a single tree tested has fallen victim to the beetle. Hopefully that program keeps working and gets expanded before the forests disappear.

  15. Very Inspiring Blog. love this post, This is a great way to start off the day :D Thanks

    Camp America 2014 & Summer Camp Jobs


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