Tag Archive | Badlands National Park

Circus Trip 2018: Badlands National Park

Day 13, Saturday, July 28, 2018

It was Saturday morning!  Although let’s be real – the days of the week didn’t have much significance for me on this trip, and beyond writing down what day it was in my journal, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to days or dates last summer.

I woke up, tore down my tent and took a shower.  Then I decided to try out the breakfast at Wall Drug – a western institution!  Wall Drug has been around since 1931 – I blogged about my visit in 2016 with my mom.  I had two eggs, toast, ham, and a maple frosted donut for breakfast.  YUM!

My breakfast at Wall Drug – coffee is 5 cents!

After breakfast, I headed back into Badlands National Park.

I drove down the Sage Rim Road again and found a few wild bison, and several domestic ones, as well as the prairie dog town!  I love prairie dogs!  It had been a couple of years since I had seen any, and they are still amazingly cute.  I didn’t see any more Bighorn Sheep, but I was ok with that since I had seen several the evening before.

I drove through the park from west to east, stopping at a few viewpoints along the way and checking out the scenery.  It was much cooler than my visit a few years before – in the low 70s instead of 97 degrees!  I hadn’t planned on spending a lot of time there on this visit though, so I kept it to a relatively brief drive through.  Just enough time for a lot of selfies!

Although I love the Badlands, I had so many more places to see on my trip!

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Badlands Evening

Day 12, Friday, July 27, 2018

After my visit to Ellsworth Air Force Base, I continued on my way to Wall, South Dakota and got a space at the Sleepy Hollow campground.  It was $15 plus tax for a tent site, one of the cheapest campgrounds on my trip.  I set up my tent, took a nap and then went to Badlands National Park nearby to see if I could find any wildlife.

Tenting it in Mellow Yellow

I wasn’t planning to stay that long at Badlands, as there was a thunderstorm in the distance – and I would be spending more time there the next day. It was interesting to see the storm approaching on the horizon – that light!

I drove slowly down the Sage Rim Road, where I found Bighorn Sheep!  They are so cute! And those babies!  I loved just watching them amble by.

It was too dark for good photos, so I made my back towards camp and stumbled upon one of my favorite photos of my entire road trip.  The recent rain had soaked the road, making it shine like chrome.  The road, the sky, and my car hood made for a spectacular but unexpected subject.  I still love this photo!

Back at camp, I had left-over sausage and rice, along with a Huckleberry lager.  And I did laundry.  Because not every evening on a road trip can have over-the-top excitement…  It was a great day!

My Huckleberry Lager – this was a pretty good beer!

 

Road Trip Photo Faves: The Road

Here is another of my favorite photos from my road trip.

I was in Badlands National Park one evening in July looking for Bighorn Sheep when a rainstorm rolled through.  I was leaving the park, driving back to my campground in Wall, South Dakota when I was greeted with the sheen from the rain on the road and the blue sky coming through the rain clouds.  It was stunning.

 

West 2016: Badlands NP Scenery

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.

Mom and me with the Badlands Sign! Can you tell by my hair that it was windy?

Mom and me with the Badlands Sign! Can you tell by my hair that it was windy?

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!

Mom and me - Selfies overlooking the buttes

Mom and me – Selfies overlooking the buttes

 

Piddles enjoying the view of the Badlands

Piddles enjoying the view of the Badlands

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.

Some of the spires towering above the prairie grasses

Some of the spires towering above the prairie grasses

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.

The view from near the top of Saddle Pass - our car a speck in the distance

The view from near the top of Saddle Pass – our car a speck in the distance

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!

Me on the Fossil Walk

Me on the Fossil Walk

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…).

The Yellow Mounds at Badlands - yellow indeed!

The Yellow Mounds at Badlands – yellow indeed!

 

They promised! But Badlands did not deliver

They promised! But Badlands did not deliver…

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!

 

Badlands National Park History

Badlands National Park is a picture of contrasts.  While seemingly a harsh desolate environment made up of eroded buttes, spires and pinnacles, it also contains the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States.  A prairie that teams with life.

Badlands began as Badlands National Monument on March 4, 1929 when it was authorized by Herbert Hoover, although it wasn’t established until January 25, 1939 (Franklin Roosevelt was President by then).  It was re-designated as a National Park on November 10, 1978.  The park protects 242,756 acres of land, of which 64,144 is designated wilderness.  The park had 966,263 visitors in 2016 – my mom and I were two of them!!

A stunning badlands view...

A stunning badlands view…

The park boundaries are brimming with fossils; it actually contains the richest deposits of Oligocene mammals known.  It sort of boggles the mind to imagine mammals roaming around on this land 33 million years ago, but there they were.  The fossil remains in the park include camels, three-toed horses, oreodonts, antelope-like animals, rhinoceroses, deer-like mammals, rabbits, beavers, creodonts, land turtles, rodents and birds.  There are also a fair number of marine animals in the fossil record here, including ammonites, nautiloids, fish, marine reptiles, and turtles.

Badlands has known human habitation for approximately 11,000 years.  The paleo-Indians, although little studied, are the inhabitants who arrived after crossing the ice bridge from Eurasia in the late Pleistocene period (“i” before “e” except after “c”, or in Pleistocene, apparently…).  Stone tools, including projectile points, have been found in the area, as well as charcoal from ancient campfires.  Later came the Arikara, and then the Lakota, who used the elevation of the Badlands Wall to scout for herds for hunting, as well as approaching enemies.

At the end of the 19th century, homesteaders and gold miners moved into the nearby area, and the U.S. government forced the tribes onto reservations, including one called the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  Many of the Oglala Sioux in the area fought the orders to move to reservations, and instead chose to defy the order, following the prophet Wovoka.  From this movement, the Ghost Dance was born.  The Sioux believed that the Ghost Dance would restore their land and force the white settlers and government agents to leave, and that the Ghost Shirts that they wore would be impervious to bullets.  Well…  This didn’t end up panning out, and sadly the ghost dancers, being pursued by government troops in 1890, ended up seeking refuge on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Gunfire erupted as the soldiers were attempting to disarm the group – as the story goes a deaf man named Black Coyote was reluctant to give up his rifle, since he had paid a lot for it.  On December 29, 1890, what became known as the Wounded Knee Massacre killed over 300 Native Americans and 30 soldiers.  It was the last big clash between Plains Indians and U.S. troops in the series of clashes that became known as the Indian Wars.  The Pine Ridge Reservation now contains the Stronghold Unit and the Pine Creek Unit of Badlands National Park within its boundaries.  Although the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre is not within the boundaries of the park, it is nearby and open to the public.

Badlands has lots to do – there are hikes of all levels, from a 0.25 mile flat traverse over a raised boardwalk to a 10 mile back-country hike.  The trails range from easy to strenous, but you do need to plan accordingly for extreme temperatures and weather (both in summer and winter).  You can back-country camp, cycle on the roads (paved, dirt or gravel), and there is a night sky program.  Wildlife viewing is also popular at the park, with prairie dogs, bison, deer, pronghorn, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, badgers, coyotes, bobcats, and black-footed ferrets being just some of the species found in the park.  67 species of birds are known to nest within the park and over 200 species have been documented there.  There are also reptiles, amphibians and butterflies present there.

I have been excited about visiting this park for a long time, and I was finally going to be able to visit!  Posts coming soon!