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On all sides, the land looks like a typical South Dakota prairie as you approach. Then, suddenly, you see the badlands! Cliffs, peaks, valleys, desert-looking, etc. It’s really an amazing view of these “bad” lands. Badlands National Park in South Dakota lies east of the Black Hills. (By the way, there are similar badlands in North Dakota. They make up part of Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Montana.) The Badlands National Wandering About makes a great trip! By the way, here’s a link to information on all National Parks.
As you drive into the park, you see scenes like this. In my case, the prairie on the right side and the badlands on the left. Almost shocking transformation. The word “Badlands” comes from the Lakota word “mako sica,” which literally translates to “land bad”. When the French fur traders and explorers came on the scene, they called it “les mauvaises terres a traverse” or “bad lands to traverse.” This national park encompasses 244,000 acres. The National Park Services designated it as a park in 1978. Here’s a link to the National Park site.
Badlands National Park Wandering around
In another age, about 75 million years ago, an ancient shallow sea covered the area. The sea receded and left various sediment that formed the land as it is today. Erosion by water and wind continues to shape these lands. The Lakota people discovered bones and shells from sea life.
Some areas are rocks and formations, but the park also includes native prairie among the rock formations. One picture shows more prairie than formations, and the other vice versa. Before posting to the public blog, I need to review my pictures again. In the editing process, I lost some clarity. That’s the fun part of providing premium subscribers early content and then doing updates over time.
The views are amazing! There isn’t much vegetation, so it’s likely similar during spring, summer, and fall. Of course, it’s South Dakota so you will see snow in the winter. And likely in early spring and late fall!
The park is such a contrast from the area around it. Amazing when you come upon it. When visiting the Black Hills, try to take the time to head east a bit and see this gem.
The chimney-like peaks in the Badlands
In places, the land looks like several plateaus stacked on top of each other. The “chimney rocks” on top make them resemble castles. The park contains many different formations. There are too many different kinds to include pictures of all of them here. I’m giving you sample pictures. If you are looking for more pictures, there are dozens of places to look. Just Google it!
And then steep cliff-like, rugged formations…
Geologists believe about 500,000 years ago, three rivers, the Bad River, the White River, and the Cheyenne River, began eroding the formations. That erosion continues today. Today’s geologists calculate the badlands recede about 1 inch per year. I’m sure someone will let us know if that accelerates, but it’s unlikely that we will notice!
By the way, Badlands doesn’t have a monopoly on these geographic formations. Other US states contain “badlands” as well. For example; Little Missouri Badlands: Theodore Roosevelt National Park & Surroundings, North Dakota; Toadstool Geologic Park: Pine Ridge Escarpment, Nebraska; Hell’s Half Acre: Wind River Basin, Wyoming; Blast-Zone “Badlands”: Mount St. Helens, South Washington Cascades; The Painted Desert: Arizona; and Zabriskie Point: Death Valley, California.
The Badlands appear in movies as well. Parts of Dances with Wolves with Kevin Costner took place here. Starship Troopers used the area to depict the surface of an alien planet. And Armaggedon used it as the surface of an asteroid.
The park lies just south of Wall, SD, and east of the Black Hills. Access from I-90 to the north is a quick 15-minute drive. South Dakota highway 377 provides interior access. (The highway passes through the park, but there is only one off-ramp.) The main entrance is 75 miles east of Rapid City and off Exit 110 of I-90. If you are traveling from the east, Exit 131 off I-90 also enters the park.
Although there are other places to drive, SD highway 240 makes up the Badlands Loop Highway. It’s the most popular place to view the park, especially if you have limited time. And either place you enter, the Badlands National Park Wandering about will amaze you!
Looks like other national parks?
While each national park is unique, parts of Theodore Roosevelt Park in North Dakota are very similar. In fact, those are called Badlands as well. Medicine Rocks State Park in Montana contains similar terrain. Two other places in Montana also appear as badlands; Makoshika State Park and Terry Badlands Wilderness Study Area. New Mexico also provides a home to Lybrook Badlands and Bisti Wilderness Area. Bisti lies near the Four Corners area within the Navajo Nation.
The Painted Desert (part of the Petrified Forest National park) in Arizona not only borders Route 66 but also resides in the Navajo Nation. That’s a great visit as well.
Just for kicks, here’s a link to another National Park I saw 3 days prior to this one! And remember to use the Badlands National Park Wandering as a key stop on your travel plans.
“Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood & the Destroyers
“On the day I was born
The nurses all gathered ’round
And they gazed in wide wonder
At the joy they had found
The head nurse spoke up
And she said, “leave this one alone”
She could tell right away
That I was bad to the bone”
Written by: George Thorogood – What do you expect for “bad” lands. Really more blues sound than rock but blues and other music are the roots of rock.