Hello, I went on a three month long motorcycle trip this past summer (2018) and Custer State Park was one if the places I stopped at in order to pitch my tent and stay the night. Throughout my 3-month journey I stayed at many, many campgrounds, AirBnbs, hotels, hostels, etc. Custer State Park was the low point as far as Value and Reservation process were concerned.
After a long day of riding it is always nice to come upon a campground that has a fair price and an easy reservation system; Custer had neither. I arrived about an hour before sunset (as I usually do), I was tired, and wanted to set my tent up before dark. The first hurdle was the $10 (cash) Park vehicle pass. I didn’t have a $10 bill. So I had to jump back on bike and go find change somewhere. That took 30 minutes, and it was closer to sunset. The next hurdle was that you have to use a Reservation phone at the campsite to make a reservation before setting up tent...even though there were many open spots. The phone was easy to find, the receptionist answered relatively quickly, and was friendly enough, but then I spent about 15 minutes on the phone, answering questions, providing credit card information, address, email, phone number, state of residence, and much much more simply to reserve a 20ft x 20ft patch of dirt in order to pitch small two-man tent...and it was only for one night. I have bought vehicles in less time. By the time the reservation process was over, the 20ft x 20ft patch of earth cost me nearly $40....what? I could stay in an Econo Lodge for cheaper than that (Kissimmee FL...$35). The $40 consisted of the $10 Park vehicle pass, a camping fee, a phone call fee, a non-resident fee, and finally taxes. It was like looking at my cell phone bill. South Dakota...could you possibly make the camping process any more complicated? And why the non-resident fee? It that your way of attracting tourists? Unfortunately I have seen other State parks doing this. I am one guy on a small motorcycle that just wants to pitch a tent for one night, but there is a complex reservation process and cost structure that treats me like I am driving a 40 foot motorhome.
Please look at how the National Parks run their campgrounds...always easy and simple. You ride/drive up to the gate, grab an envelope, and slip in a $20 bill. No taxes, no non-resident fee, no phone charge, no fuss no muss. First come first serve. Easy!