Parks have always been the center of attraction for people of all age groups. Without a reasonable doubt, a vast expanse of land that becomes home to flora, fauna, and natural structures such as valleys, plains, plateaus, lakes, trails, etc., is what many people fancy for when they want to spend some time away from their residence and workplace to rejuvenate. This fantasy has always been fulfilled by mother nature, which through its offerings, has always mesmerized the wanderers who leave themselves in the open spaces and explore such parks. Badlands National Park in the state of South Dakota has been serving to the needs of such wanderers who seek solace in the wilderness.
The history of the Badlands National Park suggests that it was a hunting ground for the Native Americans. These people used to camp in the valleys, which is evident from the rocks, charcoal, hunting weapons, etc., that are found till date. The Native Americans used the park area for 11,000 years. The hunters used to stay for longer periods if they found that hunting was good before moving to their villages.
In the 19th century, South Dakota became the residence to homesteaders, which cost the Native Americans the territory they used to occupy. A struggle by the protesting Native Americans, who wanted to reclaim their hunting grounds, led to the Wounded Knee Massacre. This massacre led to the death of nearly three hundred people belonging to the Native American tribe and thirty soldiers of the US Army.
Apart from being a hunting ground of the Native Americans, the Badlands National Park is also famous for the fossils retrieved from the site by the people of Lakota tribe. Fossilized bones and seashells, along with shells of turtles were found, which led the people to reach to a conclusion that the park area was under water in the earlier days, while the species of the animals of which the fossils were retrieved were no longer in existence.
Further fossils collected by an individual named Alexander Culbertson, later handed over to a physician, were found to be a jaw fragment. The jaw fragment belonged to an animal, which was named as Paleotherium, and an article published in the American Journal of Science about this finding invoked the interest of the community to further explore the White River Badlands. The following years saw massive number of fossils being discovered from this area. As decades passed, 77 species were discovered. White River Badlands continued to be explored by scientists and organizations and to this date, it remains to be one of the most fascinating locations where some of the oldest fossils, dating back to 33 million years, were discovered.
The present age national park was occupied by homesteaders till the time the Great Dust Bowl and the waves of grasshopper made it difficult for the residents to survive in the Badlands. Despite being assigned 640 acres of land compared to the previous 160 acres, many families chose to abandon their homes and migrate to another town. Other families who chose to stay back still have their homes and their primary occupation remains ranching and farming wheat.
A portion comprising 337 acres of land of the Badlands National Monument was occupied by the U.S. Army Air Force, along with 3,41,726 acres of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The area occupied was used as a gunnery range, which later was used by the South Dakota National Guard as an artillery range.
On March 4, 1929, the authorities named this area as the Badlands National Monument though it was established almost ten years later, on January 25, 1939. The monument got the status of a national park on November 10, 1978.
The Badlands National Park is spread over a massive expanse of 242,756 acres, out of which 64,144 acres is dedicated as a wilderness area.
The dry plains have landscapes; magnificent pinnacles, buttes worn out by erosion, prairies across with mixed grass, and the Badlands Wall, which stretches more than 60 miles and divides the upper and lower prairie.
What to Do
Camping and hiking at the park area are perfect getaways for the adventure enthusiasts. Visitors from all age groups are mesmerized by the beauty and solitude this park has to offer.
Several exhibits are conducted on a regular basis as a means to educate the visitors regarding the history and significance of the White River Badlands.
Eat, Drink, Collect
Gastronomical delights followed by visual delights are an integral part of any vacation. Cedar Pass Lodge Restaurant offers meals and snacks to the visitors and lodging as well.
Other lodges and restaurants in the vicinity include the Badlands Inn, Best Western Plains, Circle View Guest Ranch, Coyote Blues Village, etc.
A store operated by Badlands Natural History Association sells books, DVDs, backpacks, caps, t-shirts, vests, hats, and other collectibles for visitors of different age groups.
Best Time to Visit
There are no restrictions regarding the timings to visit the park area. It is open on all days of the week. The park closes down on three days in a year: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, and New Year Day.
The visitor center opens at 08:00 am and closes down at 04:00 pm during winters, whereas in the summer season, it is open from 07:00 am to 07:00 pm. From the middle of April to middle of May and from early September to late October, the center is open from 08:am to 05:00 pm.
You have to pay $15 while arriving on a non-commercial vehicle to the park. Individuals entering on their bicycle or by hiking are required to pay $7 for admission, whereas those arriving on a motorcycle have to pay $10.
The park administration charges $30 for an annual pass. Groups arriving in commercial vehicles are charged according to the size of the vehicle and the number of people arriving thereof. Educational institutes bringing in their students with a purpose to educate them are eligible for waivers on the admission charges.
Things to Remember
The park area is prone to fire due to the dry conditions and the temperature that soars very high in the summer season. The visitors are therefore advised to take necessary precautions during their visit to the park.
Contrary to its name, Badlands is actually one of the best tourist spots in South Dakota. With all its offerings, the park has made its way to one of the most coveted destinations people prefer to visit. We hope that your visit turns out to be a beautiful experience and the memories continue to travel along with you forever.