Badlands National Park in South Dakota is a place filled with as much legend as open spaces and it was one of my kid’s favorite places to visit in South Dakota! Like just about everywhere we went, we didn’t have the time to see and explore all of it, but even just taking the Loop around the park to see prairie dogs, buffalo and burrowing owls was a treat!
If you’re coming from Rapid City, I suggest continuing down I-90 to see the Delta 09 Missile Silo, then heading into the Badlands NP in Cactus Flats. This was not the way we went and we did a lot of backtracking. The Minuteman Missile Visitors Center is in Cactus Flats, too.
Roberts Prairie Dog Town
When I was a kid we had a pet prairie dog and I still think they are just adorable! They’ve lost so much of their natural habitat in Texas, but it was incredible to see them in such a big open place as the Badlands!
Just off I-90 at Hwy 240 in Cactus Flats is the Badlands Ranch Store with a huge statue of a prairie dog. You can buy peanuts to feed to the prairie dogs. Click HERE to visit their website.
The prairie dogs are a prime food source for the black-footed ferret, which is currently considered the most endangered animal in the U.S. Efforts to reintroduce these animals have been made in the Badlands, and while you probably won’t see one, as they are nocturnal animals, it’s fun to look!
It’s interesting that as the prairie dogs are considered an attraction for tourist, they are a pest for ranchers, due to their burrows and their over-eating leads to erosion. In the southern areas of the Badlands, they have resorted to poisoning to control the prairie dog population. Efforts to re-introduce the black-footed ferret have also been met with concern by the ranchers, since neither the prairie dogs nor the ferrets, which are federally protected, abide by fences and a resident ferret can cost a rancher up to 1500 acres of grazing land for his cattle.
The beauty of the Badlands is just indescribable!
My camera certainly didn’t capture the amazing colors in the rocks. According to the National Parks information, the white streaks in the rocks are from the ash from the Rocky Mountains in Colorado when they were active volcanos and blew that far East.
There are trails all over the park, some strenuous and some, like the Notch, that are just little trails like the one my son is standing on, and not recommended for those with a fear of heights! I literally crawled!
This is more my kind of hiking. Those are buffalo/bison in the distance. While we were in the park, we didn’t see any up close, but you can on the Rim Rd. when they are out.
Another trail we enjoyed was the 1/4 mile Fossil Exhibit Trail, with artifacts of animals that once lived in the park, including ancient camels and rhinoceroses!
While we didn’t spot any black-footed ferrets during our visit, we did see these burrowing owls! They eat bugs, like grasshoppers, and take over a prairie dog burrow. They often live amicably with the prairie dogs, and benefits from their early warnings of danger!
The Ben Reifel Visitors Center has interpretive displays, a theater and movie about the badlands, gift shop and events such as daily guided hikes, a chance to watch paleontologist prepare fossils, night sky viewing and more. Click HERE for more information.
There are two campgrounds in the NP, as well as the Cedar Pass Lodge, which also has a restaurant. There is also a KOA nearby.
The primitive Sage Creek Campground is available first-come.
You can also camp in the Badlands backcountry. Click HERE to visit the NPS website.
The South Unit, which contains Stronghold Table, requires a permit and landowner permission to cross.
Since I love reading others adventures, click HERE to read Crazy Guy on a Bike’s visit, and he has lots of pictures!
Stronghold Table to the South is the protection of the Uglala Lakota Indians. In the 1890’s the Lakota witnessed the last Ghost Dance at Stronghold Table. I think it’s a fascinating history, to read more about it, click HERE.
Know Before You Go
Thanks to Sprint, which after a day cut off my unlimited data because I was using too much, we had absolutely no date service at all. We did have phone service throughout the Badlands. If you’re traveling and need data (like me), Verizon is the way to go in South Dakota! It’s always a great idea to check ahead and find out who has good coverage before you go.
Be sure to fill up your car with gas, and take plenty of water with you.
Pets are not allowed in the Backcountry.
Things To Do in South Dakota
We loved Bear Country USA in Rapid City! Click HERE to read more about our visit.
Wall Drug Store in Wall is a MUST STOP on any visit to South Dakota! Click HERE for more information!
Badlands National Park
Click HERE to visit their website.
Keep Having Fun in the Texas Sun!
Having Fun in the TEXAS Sun is on PINTEREST! Use it as a quick resource to find activities in different Texas towns! Click HERE!
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