Bear Country USA Drive-through Wildlife Park
- Date Visited: August 2, 2021
- Address: 13820 US-16, Rapid City, SD 57702
- Phone: (605) 343-2290
- Hours: Daily 8 AM-6 PM (Open Seasonally)
- Price: $18 for adults $12 for kids with a $65 max per vehicle
Bear Country USA is a seasonal drive-through wildlife park located on over 200 acres in Rapid City, South Dakota. From the safety of your own vehicle you can observe black bears, mountain lions, wolves, bighorn sheep, elk and other animals native to North America in their natural habitats.
The facility was opened by Dr. Dennis “Doc” Casey and his wife Pauline in August 1972. When they first opened the animals consisted of one black bear, one cougar, one wolf, three buffalo and one large bull elk. It is now the home of the largest collection of privately owned black bears in the world. Most of the animals living in the park are born on the premises and hand-raised by the staff.
After paying your admission price at the gate you will start your drive through the park. Convertibles, motorcycles or soft-top vehicles are not allowed to drive thru, but they do offer free courtesy vehicles for you to use.
Do not feed the animals and keep your windows closed. Remember that this is the animals home so they always have the right of way. Drive slow through the park. There are multiple pull-offs throughout the drive where you can stop and take pictures and spend as much time as you like observing the wildlife.
I would suggest going as early as you can when you visit. They seem to feed the animals very morning around opening so that is the best time to see them. We got their at 8:10 am and saw every animal species up close and personal enjoying their breakfast. It’s hot in South Dakota and during the day they are all hiding in the shade of the trees making them more difficult to observe.
The first animal you will encounter on your drive is the Rocky Mountain Elk. If you have never seen one of these guys in person you will be amazed by just how massive they are. I had never seen a baby before and one cutie was hanging out with the herd.
Reindeer were the next group on the drive. After watching them for a minutes we heading to one of my favorite animals, the arctic wolves. We actually got stuck here for a minute, because one was completely stretched out in the middle of the road. After a couple honks of the truck he leisurely got up and heading toward the trees.
Dall sheep and bighorn sheep were our next stop. Most of them were eating breakfast on a rocky outcropping in the field. They also had a couple babies in their group that were just adorable. After taking a few pics of the babies we observed timber wolves then mountain lions eating frozen meatsicles.
Now this is the point where you enter true bear country. These guys have the largest section of the park and I swear there seemed to be a hundred bears running around. Most we’re in one section enjoying their breakfast, but there were bears strolling around everywhere.
This area also has an observation tower where staff keep an eye on everything. We had to stop several times in this section for a bear to take his sweet time crossing the road.
There were multiple wolves scattered among the bears as well. We spent some time pulled over watching the two species interact. We watched wolves dart in and out among the bears in an attempt to grab some food. They were successful about half the time. The other half a bear would swat them away and hoard the food for themselves.
The wolves were extremely outnumbered though so I’m surprised they were able to grab anything. They seem to be quite a bit quicker than those bears though.
You will finish off your drive with some pronghorn, mule deer and a bison or two.
After driving through the park you will head to the Wildlife Walkway. This consists of a stroll around a large ‘island’ to see smaller animals on exhibit. Porcupine, raccoon, badger, artic fox, red fox, coyote, bobcat and lynx are just a few of the animals you will see in this area. All the enclosures are well designed and all the animals look happy and healthy in their exhibits.
The otters were extremely fun to watch. They had an exquisite exhibit featuring a waterfall and a large area for them to swim in. They are always quite entertaining.
The stars of this area though are the baby bear cubs. The facility breeds bears each year and always has babies on display. They were very active while we visited and we watched them for some time climbing trees and playing with each other before they crashed for a mid-morning nap.
Before leaving the park be sure to check out the Bear’s Den Gift Shop for some fun and unique gifts. The prices were a bit high on most of the specialty items, but we got some good deals on t-shirts and basic souvenirs.
Though more than we usually like to pay for excursions I think Bear Country USA was worth every penny. We’ve been to a couple drive-thru wildlife parks before and always have a good time. This is a great little place the whole family will enjoy.