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Old 02-29-2016, 12:41 PM   #1
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Join Date: Sep 2014
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South Dakota July 2016

Hi all, My wife and I plus our 5 and 9 yr old are planning a two week trip in July to the South Dakota area to see the local attractions. I have read the previous posts regarding recommendations for campgrounds.

For spending a few days at one campground to see local attractions we are narrowing it down to Sheridan Lake, Palmer Gulch KOA, and Rafter J. Does anyone have any current recommendations and which one is a better value over the other? I recognize Sheridan Lake has no hook ups but we are fine dry camping for 4 days and prefer secluded sites over a open field stack on top of one another. We had the KOA recommended by a friend because of the amenities and rentals available. I'm not a big fan of KOA's typically due to the over all cost $ and what you get for it. How does Rafter J stack up the Palmer Gulch KOA? Any input is appreciated. Thanks
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Old 02-29-2016, 12:49 PM   #2
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We prefer Rafter J. We really like the "island" it is a small group of campsites sit in a grove of trees away from the main section of the campground. Nice large sites.
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Old 02-29-2016, 01:22 PM   #3
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Georgew48 Thank you. Great! I have heard good things about the campground. They don't appear to have a online reservations... Do you recall what is average cost per night at Rafter J?
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Old 02-29-2016, 11:05 PM   #4
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Rafter J has their rates on their website...peak season of July/Aug is $41 for dry camp and $56 for 30amp and water. Keep in mind that in can get very hot in the Black Hills in July/Aug...you may want to have electric in order to run the A/C...not sure what their policy is in regards to generators.
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Old 03-01-2016, 01:02 PM   #5
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We stayed in Horse Thief Campground last June. The road construction ended the first day we were there, so access into Custer SP was easy on Hwy 87. It's a smaller park, but had a play ground, pool and a large shower/toilet building. The office staff was friendly and knowledgeable.


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Old 03-01-2016, 02:02 PM   #6
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Angostura State Park near Hot Springs is about an hour drive from Custer but you may want to consider it if you like boondocking. The east side of the lake is developed with paved sites, electricity, showers, flush toilets, and dump stations. Rate is $19 per night. Some sites are right next to the water but you have to reserve early to get them. Canoe and kayak rental are available.

The west side of the lake (which is a 40 minute drive from the east side) has about six primitive non reservable sites with no fee and no hookups. Campsites are near the waters edge. On weekends the sites fill up but usually there is room on the weekdays. Be advised Angostura State Park is in the prairie and not covered with pine trees like campgrounds further north. It may be hot in the summer so a generator is recommended on the primitive sites.

Both the east and west side also require an annual $30 state park pass which you need anyway for entrance into Custer state park in the Black Hills.

If you decide to go with the free camping call the park office and get good directions. There are no road signs on the west side that tell you where the free camping is.
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Old 03-01-2016, 04:21 PM   #7
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Stayed at Rafter J last September. Very nice and close to Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Hill City. Cost was around $50/day, it was worth it especially since it was so hot the week we were there. Definitely would go back if I'm in the area.
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Old 03-02-2016, 10:30 AM   #8
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We are also planning our trip to SD for the end of July. Made our reservations at Sheridan Lake. Hoping to do some photography while we tour around the area. We received several suggestions from this forum on places to camp and Sheridan seemed to fit our needs best. Looking forward to seeing new sights and meting new friends.
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Old 03-03-2016, 09:08 AM   #9
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X2 on Horse Thief. It was quiet and enjoyable. Convenient to Mt. Rushmore and Rapid City.
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Old 03-04-2016, 09:30 AM   #10
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Any recommendations on camping @ or close to Deadwood ???
Also is the weather pretty Hot in July ???
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Old 03-04-2016, 10:48 AM   #11
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We were there in June, and it was very comfortable.
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