Day 4: August 8, 2016
Badlands was one of the places I was most excited about on our trip. I love desert landscapes, and was really looking forward to seeing the spectacular colors of the eroded buttes and the prairie grasses. Badlands National Park did not disappoint.
After arriving at the park, and snapping the obligatory poses with the entrance sign, my mom and I stopped at the first viewpoint – the Big Badlands Overlook. The views here were amazing, with the buttes showing all their beautiful colors and the grass down below (pictures don’t really do it justice). We were able to get some great photos of the scenery and enjoy our first looks at the park. But wow, was it hot! It was hovering between 95 and 97 degrees! Wow! So of course, I have a very red face in all my photos that day, from the heat!
We stopped at the Ben Reifel Visitor’s Center and had a picnic lunch outside. The picnic tables have space-agey sun covers over them to protect you from the heat – you do have to be careful about pinning your stuff down so it doesn’t blow away though! There was a bit of a breeze the day we were there, which of course made the heat slightly more bearable. Then we went inside and watched the park movie and checked out the exhibits in the Visitor’s Center. They had a great exhibit on the pre-historic animals and fossil record within the park.
After the Visitor’s Center, we headed out to see more of the park. We stopped at lots of the viewpoints and I did some short hikes. I hiked up the hill at the Saddle Pass trail head while my mom waited at the car, doing some sketching and journaling. It was a short but very steep uphill climb to some great views, made much more challenging by the fact that the terrain was loose scree, so I slid back down a little bit at several points. I didn’t end up going all the way up the hill, but I managed to get high enough to enjoy the scenery, and for the car to look like a little dot in the distance below.
Mom and I also walked the 1/2 mile Fossil Walk. It is a flat boardwalk trail that has interpretive plaques showing the types of fossils that have been found in the park. It was neat seeing what is buried underneath the layers here, and getting a close up view of the colors in the landscape. Fossils found here include dogs, alligators, rhinoceroses, and ammonites. There were lots of kids climbing on the buttes here – they had a lot of energy for such a hot day!
The Yellow Mounds Overlook and the Pinnacles Overlook were fairly self-explanatory. Although they did promise rattlesnakes, and the only one we saw all day was one that was dead and flat in the road (sorry I didn’t get a photo…).
As sad as it was though that we didn’t see any rattlesnakes, we did see plenty of wildlife at Badlands – I’ll be posting about them next!