Named after the extreme weather, lack of water and exposed rugged landscape of sedimentary rock, Badlands National Park, South Dakota, doesn’t sound like the most pleasant place to visit. But, it proved to be an interesting destination to take an afternoon drive on day nine of our Jandals and Jet Planes Summer Road Trip 2018.
With dust billowing behind us, we entered ‘the Badlands’ along a dirt road (Sage Creek Road) and through an obscure entrance, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
Glimpsing the familiar brown National Park signage made me feel a little relieved that we were in the right place.
Bison approached from our right, ambling across the road in front of us in a long, single file line. These majestic beasts were now a familiar sight on our road trip, but a sight that never got boring!
When a large enough gap in the herd opened up, we passed through and hung a left onto a sealed road – Sage Creek Rim Road. First stop – Roberts Prairie Dog Town. Yep, a community of burrowing rodents popping up from holes in the ground, scurrying about their day. It’s not easy for two 6 year-olds, who’ve been cooped up in a car for hours, to keep still in an open field, but when they managed it, they were rewarded with the entertainment of a cute furry critter or two.
This was our first experience seeing Prairie Dogs in the wild (we certainly don’t have them in New Zealand) and the kids, and adults, took great delight in watching them go about their daily business.
We also had an encounter with a herd of Pronghorn Antelope as we followed along the Rim Road. We took advantage of several lookout pull over areas, as the landscape continued to change.
It’s no wonder the landscape has been used to backdrop the filming of such movies as Armageddon and Starship Troopers, as many of the rock formations look like they are from another planet.
The Badlands are also famous for having one of the most concentrated number of mammal fossils in the world, dating back over 30 million years ago. Unfortunately we didn’t stop to explore the fossil exhibit trail, as the parking lots were already filled with hundreds of motorcycles (no doubt in the area for Sturgis – a huge annual motorcycle rally that was taking place nearby).
Following all the bikes through the twists and turns of the rock formations, I think Hubby was reliving his motorcycle days.
On our exit, we made a quick convenience stop at the Ben Reifel Visitors Center, checked out their interactive exhibits and bought our mandatory sticker from the gift shop. Next stop Wall!
Don’t let the name put you off visiting. Badlands National Park has got a lot to offer.
When was the last time you were in such an extreme environment?
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