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Badlands National Park - South Dakota
Large herds of buffalo once inhabited the area before the westward movement of the army, miners, and homesteaders. The herds were measured by the area they covered. One herd measured twelve by five miles in 1862. Another covered thirty by forty-five miles in 1839. Today, buffalo are making a comeback under the protection of state and national parks. At Badlands buffalo population runs at about 500. The buffalo can be seen in the Sage Creek Wilderness Area sometimes viewable from Sage Creek Rim Road. Keep a safe distance from them. A bull buffalo can run faster than a human and weigh more than a car. They have been known to gore onlookers when provoked.
Lakota Indians called the area mako sica(bad
land). The first men to record their impressions of the Badlands were French-Canadian
trappers searching for beaver. They described the area as les mauvaises terres a traverser(bad
lands to travel across).
Conservation writer Freeman Tilden described
the region as "peaks and valleys of delicately banded colors--colors that shift in the sunshine,...and a thousand tints that color charts do not show. In the early morning and evening, when shadows are cast upon the infinite peaks or on a bright moonlit night when the whole region seems a part of another world, the Badlands will be an experience not easily forgotten."
The park consists of three units totaling over 240,000 acres. The North Unit is the most well-known and easiest to explore with its loop road where you will find numerous scenic overlooks and trailheads. The Stronghold and Palmer Creek Units are located within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
At the Cedar Pass Area to the far east end of the North Unit, you will find the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and park headquarters open year-round. The Cedar Pass Lodge adjacent to the visitor center is open during the spring, summer and fall months. The amphitheater and Cedar Pass campground are within walking distance also. Within several miles of the visitor center are three self-guiding nature trails and several trailheads. The Fossil Exhibit Trail is wheelchair accessible. The Cliff Shelf Nature Trail and the Door Trail are moderately strenuous. Pamphlets are available for the Fossil and Cliff Shelf Trails.
Directions and Fees
Westbound travelers on I-90 should use exit 131. S.D. 240, which leads to the park boundary and the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, is also the Badlands Loop Road. After passing through the park, S.D. 240 connects with I-90 at exit 110 in Wall. Travelers going east should do the reverse: begin in Wall and end at I-90 at exit 131.
Admission is $10 per private vehicle and $5 for hikers and bicyclists for a 7-day pass (pricing subject to change).
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