Scales & Tales

Family attractions in the Black Hills of South Dakota

The Black Hills is a mountain range located in the south-western portion of South Dakota. It is the home of Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is the largest mountain carving in progress in the world. Visitors to the area will see the fossil beds at Badlands National Park or get a close look at a bald eagle at Reptile Gardens. Custer State Park offers a glimpse into how the pioneers saw the west. Rapid City offers a walking tour of presidents, a wide range of hotels and restaurants, and the largest indoor water park in South Dakota. There is even one of the most diverse reptile zoos in the country.

Badlands National Park
The Badlands National Park is home to bighorn sheep, bison, black-footed ferrets, prairie dogs and more. There is an Oligocene epoch fossil bed that is 28 to 37 million-years-old and contains the fossils of horses and rhinoceroses. It is a 244,000-acre park with eroded buttes, spires and pinnacles. As of 2012, admission is $15 per vehicle, $10 per motorcycle and $7 per individual that is hiking or biking through the park. Passes are valid for seven days after they are purchased. A one-year pass can be purchased for $30.

Crazy Horse Memorial
The Crazy Horse Memorial is the largest mountain carving in progress in the world. Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear and Korczak Ziolkowski began sculpting the memorial in 1948 to commemorate the heritage of Native Americans. Crazy Horse was a legendary Lakota Chief and this memorial is intended to honor his spirit, encourage harmony amongst all people, serve as a repository for North American Indian artifacts, and establish an American Indian University and Medical Training Center. Descendants of Korczak Ziolkowski strive to continue his vision.

Reptile Gardens
Since 1937 one of mid-America’s great attractions is this unique reptile paradise. Stroll through the lush tropical jungle under the giant sky dome. Observe the beautifully diverse gardens which have over 40,000 flowers planted every summer in the lush 30 acre grounds. Take in a bird, snake and gator show. Meet prairie dogs, giant tortoises, a huge saltwater crocodile, and see some of the deadliest snakes in the world. Visit for show times and more information.

The Mammoth Site
Get a glimpse of these huge prehistoric creatures at the world’s largest mammoth research facility. Open year round, the Mammoth Site offers museum visitors a 30 minute guided tour plus a 10 minute video. Tour information features the Mammoth Site and Ice Age geology, paleontology, and paleoecology. Visitors to the museum may also observe first-hand a scientific excavation.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Mount Rushmore is one of the most iconic memorials in the United States. The massive figures are carved into Black Hills granite and it took 14 years to complete. Over this time, about 400 people worked on the carving. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln were all chosen for specific reasons. Washington was the first president of the United States and is considered the father of the country. This is why his figure is most prominent. Jefferson was the third president and is credited as being the author of the Declaration of Independence and purchasing land that is now all or part of 15 of the United States. Roosevelt served as the 26th president and is noted for his role in constructing the Panama Canal and breaking up corporate monopolies. Lincoln was the 16th president and is recognized for abolishing slavery and preserving the union during difficult times.

Custer State Park
Custer State Park, named after Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer is a wildlife reserve in the southern Black Hills that covers over 71,000 acres of rolling prairie and ponderosa forest. The park is home to a herd of 1500 free roaming bison. Also inhabiting the park are antelope, mule deer, big horn sheep, elk, mountain lions, mountain goats and a curious bunch of feral burros. The park offers several scenic drives and is easily accessible from any direction.

Watiki Water Park
Watiki Water Park offers over 30,000 square feet of indoor splash-tastic fun for every age! Even more fun can be had in the arcade overlooking the water park, offering over 40 games to win tickets that can be redeemed for prizes. Adjoined by two hotels, this water filled fun zone makes a great stop on your Black Hills Vacation.

There are many family attractions in the Black Hills, offering the opportunity to create a unique vacation experience. All members of the family are sure to take home memories that will last a lifetime.

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Start planning your Black Hills vacation

As the sunshine warms the ground, the days get longer, and the trees begin to bud, it is undeniable that summer is just around the corner. Many are inspired by the warm weather and begin planning ahead for their summer Black Hills vacation.

A time of relaxation and excitement, summer vacations are the one time of year when people of all ages are allowed to enjoy an endless array of activities and escape the worries that come with their everyday routine. With age out of the question, let Reptile Gardens in Rapid City, SD be one of your destinations for this summers Black Hills vacation.

A vacation should be about experiencing something new. It is a time to create memories that your kids will remember when they are parents. With that in mind, the staff at Reptile Gardens offers three pieces of advice for those who want to get the most out of their summer vacation destination.

Stay Stress Free – Work, school, activities, and all other daily responsibilities can leave a family tired and strained. Reptile Gardens offers visitors the escape that they need by having a variety of attractions that appeal to all ages. From gator shows to relaxing gardens, everyone will find enjoyment in this oasis just outside of Rapid City.

Families go to Reptile Gardens to spend quality time together. With so many different things to see and experience all ages enjoy watching their family member’s interactions and reactions to the many activities offered at Reptile Gardens.

Learn something new – A summer vacation does not have to involve the usual poolside lounging. Try planning something that will rejuvenate your mind in a new way. A visit to Reptile Gardens offers the opportunity to learn something new in the Black Hills. There are educational and fun shows with birds, snakes, alligators and crocodiles. The grounds are filled with reptiles and creatures from around the world, including deadly snakes, huge tortoises, exotic birds, and tropical foliage. This is one Black Hills attraction that you will definitely want your camera!

Venture out of your comfort zone – Although it is tempting to partake in the usual summer activities on your Black Hills vacation, try to stray away and find new places to have fun. At Reptile Gardens, you may get the opportunity to have an up close encounter with a giant albino python or baby alligator.

Plan your Black Hills vacation or stay-cation with these things in mind, and you are bound to make memories, share some laughs, and maybe even learn something along the way. For more information about Reptile Gardens, show times, hours and admission see

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Reptile Gardens announces final week of the season specials

As the tourism season draws to a close in the Black Hills, Reptile Gardens has announced special admission the week of November 26 through December 2, 2012.

During this final week of operation for 2012, admission is free with two cans of food per person. The items will be donated to the KOTA Care and Share Food Drive, in an effort to end hunger in South Dakota.

We’ve had such good success with the KOTA Care and Share Food Drive in past years during Mother’s Day we decided to accept donations again during the holiday season. It provides a great opportunity to come visit our exhibits for the last time before the spring, while also donating to a great cause.

In addition to the special admission, all Gift Shop merchandise will be 20% off for those looking to do some holiday shopping. From jewelry to unique art and artifacts, the Gift Shop and the Jungle Outpost at Reptile Gardens have the perfect gift for everyone on your list.

“From stocking stuffer books and toys to Himalayan pink salt lamps, we’ve got it all” said John Brockelsby, Public Relations Director, “Stop by and take a look, you might be surprised what you find.”

The hours of operation are 9:00 am – 3:00 pm daily. Do not miss this final opportunity to see our wild and wonderful creatures! Reptile Gardens will re-open in 2013 on April 1 for the Spring season.

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Reptile Gardens Awarded TripAdvisor’s Presigious Award

Reptile Gardens is honored to announce we have been awarded TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence. TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel site and provides trusted advice from travelers across the world. We are thrilled to have earned such a phenomenal award as only ten percent of accommodations listed on TripAdvisor will receive this award on a yearly basis. This tribute honors excellence in hospitality, and that’s exactly what we aim to do, by engaging visitors at Reptile Gardens and have them leaving with a memorable, enjoyable, and educational experience. Our passion for what we do is ignited within our visitors, enabling them leave with a better sense of what our world renowned team of specialists and conservationists set out to accomplish every day.

Our mission at Reptile Gardens is “to offer Guests an amazing experience while positively contributing to the future of our animal residents, as well as our community, by educating the public about important environmental issues and working closely with many major zoos worldwide to promote species survival”. We bring our mission to life every day so locals and tourists alike can experience and enjoy our goals toward education and conservation.

Qualifications for the Certificate of Excellence demand a consistent overall rating of four out of five stars. We shoot for the stars every day, from the moment our visitors step into the parking lot to an educational show with alligators and crocodiles. We strive to excel with our extraordinary hospitality service as well as keeping our clean, neat, well-kept grounds among are our top priorities. Reptile Gardens would like their guests to experience and enjoy a wonderful combination of conservation and fun, as well as a clean and organized facility fused with exceptional hospitality.

The Black Hills attract tourists from all over the world every year. With so many attractions to choose from, we understand there are numerous activities to do and things to see in the short time visitors are here. We are delighted to be a popular Black Hills family attraction along with providing memorable experiences that entice our guests to follow up with a review on TripAdvisor regarding their Reptile Gardens experience.

Reptile Gardens Awarded TripAdvisor’s Presigious Award

All of us at Reptile Gardens would like to extend our thanks to all of those who went out of their way and provided reviews on your experience with us. We are very appreciative of your visit and review. Thank you, from all of us at Reptile Gardens.

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Unique Holiday Gifts Available at Reptile Gardens, Including Amethyst Geodes and Himalayan Salt Lamps

Christmas may be three months away, but Reptile Gardens is stocking up on gifts to get ready for the upcoming holiday season.

Skip past the traffic, high tempers, and prices of the holiday and visit the gift shop at Reptile Gardens to find a variety of items ranging from clothing to New Guinea artifacts. Find something for that hard-to-shop-for person on your list, or simply something creative to give your other animals, art and history lovers.

Stop into the gift shop and check out the newest additions, which include four tons (really!) of new rocks and minerals from Brazil.  There are stunning amethyst geodes — ranging from a foot tall to five-feet tall, as well as colorful agate slabs, quartz crystals and more.

In addition, visitors to the gift shop can also find the very popular salt lamps, made from chunks of Himalayan pink salt.  As the salt warms from the bulb, the lamp is said to emit negative ions that cleanse the air as well as give off a beautiful pink glow.

While you’re visiting, forget the typical stocking stuffers you were considering before and explore the many unique gifts that can be found at the Reptile Park gift shop.

“We have a bunch of cool little items that would make great stuffers,” said Joe Maierhauser, Reptile Garden’s CEO. “We bought out an entire warehouse of colorful and fun woodcarvings that normally sell for $10 to $90 but because of the great deal we got they are now available for $3 to $25, so now is the perfect time to stop in to shop.”

Pick from an array of gifts such as plush toys and educational books; delicate jewelry, an assortment of beads, and hand woven scarves; or even handpicked collector’s items such as New Guinea tribal masks or primitive weapons. With so much to choose from, Reptile Gardens has a gift to surprise and delight anyone.

To view the full inventory and find your unique holiday gifts, stop by Reptile Gardens – they are located just south of Rapid City on Hwy. 16.

The park is open for their fall season hours from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. until October 31. November hours are 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

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New Arrivals added to the collection of exotic inhabitants at Reptile Gardens

Wondering what is new at Reptile Gardens?

The reptile park is delighted to announce the addition of Moon Crabs and Camel Spiders to their collection for visitors to observe and enjoy.

“We are always happy to get something new and exciting for visitors,” said Joe Maierhauser, Reptile Garden’s CEO. “Right now is the perfect time for people to come check them out because the weather is cooler and the park is not as busy.”

Gecarcinus Quadratus, commonly known as Moon Crabs, are distinguished by their large purple claws and colorful shell. Visitors can now catch a glimpse of the nocturnal crustaceans even during the day as the Moon Crabs get situated in the Safari Room at Reptile Gardens.

Camel Spiders, also called Solifugae, can get up to 12 inches long, have powerful jaws to pulverize their prey, and can reputedly run 10 MPH. Also known as Wind Scorpions, these intriguing creatures can now be viewed up-close by visitors of the park.

Come say hello to the new arrivals or visit the other exotic inhabitants at Reptile Gardens.


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Reduced Admission begins with the Fall Season at Reptile Gardens

Autumn is a great time of year from locals to visit Reptile Gardens.

As summer comes to an end, Reptile Gardens would like to invite friends and families to take advantage of their reduced fall season rates.

Admission rates at Reptile Gardens will be reduced starting on September 4 and will stay at the reduced rate until October 31. Reptile Gardens will continue to be open seven days a week, but will be starting its fall hours of 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m as of September 4.

Reptile Garden’s CEO, Joe Maierhauser, suggests that fall is the ideal time for local residents to visit.

“With the weather cooling down, now is the perfect time to wander around the grounds and enjoy the shows,” Maierhauser said. “Especially for local residents, because the park will not be as busy as during the tourist season.”

Reptile Gardens offers visitors and Rapid City residents one of the largest collection of reptiles, amphibians and bugs in the world. With animals like a 1250 pound saltwater crocodile, Reptile Gardens provides visitors with the opportunity to learn and explore with hundreds of species first hand.

See the reduced fall season rates and start planning your visit to Reptile Gardens.

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Here We Go Again! Another Wild Snake Story

These photos have been circulating for several years now. And, as usual, each time they make the rounds of emails the story gets wilder and wilder and more utterly ridiculous. So, let’s just hammer this one point by point. Please pass this post on to all your friends who sent you this photo.


1. This isn’t in Arizona, it is in St John’s county Florida, says so right on the sheriff’s car! Tuscan Villa Court (on the street sign) is in St Augustine, St John’s County, Florida. That took me 30 seconds on Google Maps to determine.

2. They did get one thing right it is indeed an Eastern Diamondback. But Eastern Diamondbacks are not found in Arizona anyway, they are found….in Florida.

3. It is nowhere near 15 feet long, perspective, perspective, perspective. And get real – could one guy actually hold up a 170 pound (or even a 50 pound) anything on a long aluminum stick the size of a broomstick? Could you lift one of your friends of similar weight with that stick, and then not have it bend in half? No, of course not. This nice big diamondback looks to be around 6 feet long and weighed probably around 10 pounds. Big, but nothing record-setting.

I had to throw in this forced perspective photo we made here last time I ran one of these stories

Forced perspective!

Given the actual facts of this snake’s size I realize the other points of the story become totally irrelevant. But, let’s mention them anyway, just for fun:

4. A bite from this snake could possibly kill ONE person but that isn’t even likely, especially with antivenom.

5. This snake could not swallow a 2 year-old child or pretty much any pet except your pet guinea pig.

6. Maximum striking distance would indeed be around 2 feet because this is a slightly above average snake.

7. The knife in one of the photos, not shown here, is actually just a normal pocketknife.

Is a large Diamondback a dangerous snake? Absolutely. Let’s just not throw logic out the window when looking at such photos

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Reptile Gardens Celebrates 75 Anniversary with Employee Reunion

Happy 75th Anniversary Reptile Gardens!

RAPID CITY, SD – Reptile Gardens is thrilled to announce that this year is their 75 year anniversary as one of the Black Hills most popular attractions.

Family owned and operated since 1937, this Rapid City attraction provides excellent visitor entertainment for a variety of ages. From the haven of beautiful flowers and vegetation to the exotic and extraordinary collection of amphibians, reptiles, bugs and birds, Reptile Gardens encourages visitors to discover and meet species of plants and animals from around the world.

As part of their anniversary celebration, the reptile park will be hosting an employee reunion on June 30 at the Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn in Rapid City. All current employees as well as former staff members are invited to attend the reunion, which will include food, drinks and a fun-filled evening with the entire crew at Reptile Gardens.

For those employees who are traveling a long distance, Reptile Gardens has reserved a block of rooms at the Holiday Inn at a special rate and has requested that guests of the event RSVP by June 27 to Virginia at Reptile Gardens.

To reserve your attendance for the anniversary event contact or call (605) 342-5873 for more information.


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Methuselah Memorial to be held on July 10, 2012

Reptile Gardens says goodbye to 130 yr old Methuselah.

RAPID CITY, S.D. – The memorial for Methuselah, a beloved mascot of Reptile Gardens in Rapid City South Dakota, will be held on July 10, 2012 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Reptile Gardens.

Methuselah, a giant Galapagos tortoise who weighed over 500 pounds, passed away July 10, 2011, having just celebrated his 130th birthday on June 12. As a tribute to the much-loved tortoise, a life-cast bronze statue will be unveiled at 10:30 a.m. during the memorial.

“Methuselah was here since 1954,” said Johnny Brockelsby, public relations director of Reptile Gardens. “He will be deeply missed by everyone here at Reptile Gardens and visitors from around the world.”

In addition to the life-sized statue, a children’s playground has been created at Reptile Gardens in memory of Methuselah.

“Children really loved Methuselah,” says Brockelsby. “What better way to honor that friendship than with an area dedicated to the children visiting the park.”

If you would like to share a memory of Methuselah, please submit a photo or story on our Facebook wall at or send to:

John Brockelsby
Reptile Gardens
Box 620
Rapid City, SD  57709

Please include name, address, and contact information on all materials submitted.

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