One Of The Oddest Places You’ll Find In South Dakota
When you think of South Dakota your mind probably jumps to one of three things; Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, or the Sturgis Bike Rally. Unless you know nothing about the state (it’s below North Dakota) then your mind is probably drawing a blank. However, our state packs a lot more punch than just those three. We have stunning surprises around every corner and one of the most treasured is the rugged beauty of Badlands National Park.
An hour drive east of Rapid City lies one of the oddest terrains found in our state, the Badlands. Here, rolling green plains are interrupted by large, jagged, multi-layered rock formations that can truly only be described as other-worldly. Maybe you’ve heard of Badlands National Park before or maybe it’s completely new to you. Either way, trust me when I say – add it to your list.
Don’t let the name fool you, it’s good to be this bad. These rolling plains, eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires earned this title some time ago. The name first originated from the Lakota people who referred to this place as “mako sica” or “land bad” due to the extreme temperatures, scarce water sources and barren landscape. Makes sense. The name rang true for others as well, like French-Canadian fur trappers who labeled the area as “les mauvaises terres a traverser”, or “bad lands to cross.” Today, however, they provide grounds for some pretty unreal exploration, just bring lots of water, sunscreen, and wear a hat.
The best way to explore the area? Any way you can. As a hiking lover, I would suggest stretching out your legs and taking on a hiking trail like the popular Notch Trail. Or part ways with the beaten path and do some exploring of your own, but make sure to check out the parks guidelines first. Cruising through the park doesn’t disappoint either (on a bike or in a vehicle). Enjoy a drive on the Badlands Loop Road or Sage Creek Road. Don’t skip the overlooks, it’s never the same view twice. During the drive keep a look out for wildlife. This national park is home to 39 mammals like bison and Bighorn Sheep, 9 reptile species, 6 amphibian species, 206 bird species and 69 different kinds of butterflies.
For a special treat that will top the whole experience I would recommend staying for a sunset or getting to the park early enough for sunrise. Watching the colors blend in the sky and saturate the rock formations below might just make your heart skip a beat. Stargazing in the Badlands is also top notch due to the lack of light pollution.
While exploring this national park don’t blow off the visitor centers. Stop and learn about the land. Discover the differences in the layers, learn about the fossils they’ve found and the geologic processes that took place to create a place so out of the ordinary.
Moral of the story – South Dakota is awesome and sometimes being bad is a good thing. You can thank me later.