Located in southwestern South Dakota, Badlands National
Park consists of 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles
and spires surrounded by the largest protected mixed-grass prairie
in the national park system.
Fossilized skeletons of ancient camels, three-toed horses, saber-tooth
cats and giant rhinoceros like creatures are among the many
fossilized species found here. Living creatures abound as well.
Buffalo, mule deer, pronghorn, coyotes and prairie dogs have
the run of the park and can often be seen by visitors.
Known locally to the Lakota Sioux as "mako sica" the area was
first called "badlands" by early French trappers due to the
difficulty of travel and the lack of water. In this semi-arid
land of extremes, park visitors can experience rich and varied
native plant and animal communities along with spectacular geologic
scenery, fossils and human history of the area.
Badlands National Park contains the world's richest
Oligocene epoch fossil beds, dating 23 to 35 million years old.
Scientists can study the evolution of mammal species such as
the horse, sheep, rhinoceros and pig in the Badlands formations.
- The Badlands
Wilderness Area covers 64,000 acres in the northern portion
of the park. The most spectacular parkland is within the Sage
Creek area in the northern section of the park.
- The 133,000-acre southern area of the park is located within
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and managed in cooperation with
the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
- Established as Badlands National Monument in 1939, the area
was re-designated a "National Park" in 1978.
- The park reintroduced bison and bighorn sheep in the 1960s
and more recently the black-footed ferret. In 2003, thirty
swift fox were released in the northern area of Badlands National
- Badlands National Park contains rich Oligocene epoch fossil
beds, dating 23 to 35 million years ago. The rock layers hold
the fossilized remains of early mammals such as three-toed
horses, housecat sized deer, rhinoceros, saber-toothed cats,
camels, and giant pigs.
- "Badlands" is geologic term which is used to refer to similarly
eroded landscapes around the world.
- The entire park is open to hiking. Six marked trails provide
leisurely hikes ranging from a 1/4-mile (.4 km) loop past
fossil displays to a 5 1/4 -mile (8.5 km) one-way path across
the prairie. Park rangers conduct interpretive programs daily
throughout the summer and offer special presentations like
night walks across the prairie or early morning nature walks.
- See paleontology in action at the "Pig Dig" as park staff
and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology students work
during the summer. Visitors to the Conata Picnic Area can
watch paleontologists removing 33 million year-old fossils
that were trapped in an ancient watering hole.
- Enjoy spectacular scenery, opportunities for wildlife viewing,
wayside exhibits, and trails along Badlands Loop Road.
- Take a backcountry hike in the Badlands Wilderness to explore
the prairie and rock formations.
- Visit the Roberts Prairie Dog Town, the largest easily-accessed
prairie dog town in the park. It's just a 10-mile round-trip
drive on a scenic unpaved road
- The Badlands Wilderness Area covers 64,000 acres and is
the site of the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret,
the most endangered land mammal in North America.
- The Stronghold area is co-managed with the Oglala Sioux Tribe
and includes sites of 1890s Ghost Dances. Drive to the top of
Sheep Mountain to find one of the Badlands' most outstanding vistas.
Avoid the Badlands
Bombing Range included in the Stronghold District.
- The colorful western town of Wall, South Dakota is located
55 miles east of Rapid City on Interstate 90. The Badlands
National Park is just eight miles south of Wall. The Visitor's
Center for the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands is located
on Wall's Main Street - two blocks south of the famous Wall
Drug, which is known across the world for its free ice water.
- At Mount Rushmore the majestic 60-foot faces of four U.S.
presidents gaze out over South Dakota's Black Hills. Recognized
worldwide, they stand as a symbol of American democracy. This
national treasure tells the story of the United State's rich
history, rugged determination and lasting achievement. The
Grandview Terrace provides spectacular views. For a closer
view, visitors can walk the half-mile Presidential Trail,
which loops along the base of the mountain.
- Just 17 miles (27.4 km) from Mount Rushmore, the image of
another great leader, Crazy Horse, is being carved from Thunderhead
Mountain. Crazy Horse is the largest sculptural undertaking
ever. When completed, it will tower 563 feet (171.6 m) high,
641 feet (1195 m) long. Visitors can watch history in the
making as drilling and blasting continue on the rest of the
- One hour north of Mount Rushmore National Memorial is Historic
Deadwood tucked in a pine-covered mountain gulch not far from
where Kevin Costner filmed "Dances With Wolves." Deadwood
is a designated National Historic Landmark. Old-fashioned
brick streets, period lighting and Old Time Trolleys provide
an exciting chance to step back in time.
- The Black Hills region is filled with many other natural
and manmade attractions. The 1.2-million-acre Black Hills
National Forest covers an area almost as big as Delaware,
and is a recreational wonderland. There are endless opportunities
for hiking, biking, fishing, horseback riding, wildlife viewing,
camping and taking scenic back country drives.
- Custer is located within a short drive of Mount Rushmore
National Memorial, Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park,
Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument.