Spooky and Beautiful



  Badlands National Park, SD

I-90 Exits 131 and 110.

If you canít afford a spaceship ride to Mars, then this is the next best thing. The Badlands is a very large National Park with plenty of opportunity for sightseers, hikers and history buffs. Most visitors elect to traverse the Badlands Loop Road (SR 240) which joins I-90 at Exit 131 (Cactus Flat) and Exit 110 (Wall). Years of erosion have revealed spectacular and dramatic formations containing multicolored rock strata. The views change throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky casting dramatic shadows across the rugged, otherworldly landscape. Eerie and beautiful, the Badlands experience can be quite spiritual. Early morning and late evening provide the best opportunity for photographers.

The Ben Reifel Visitor Center is located on SR 240 about 9 miles from I-90. It has natural history exhibits, a hands-on room, an audiovisual program and a wealth of info about the park. The Badlands Loop Road has about 20+ pullover areas to view the beautiful formations. One of my greatest experiences came on Wednesday morning, when my 9-year old daughter and I danced among the dinosaur fossils as I played my bowed psaltry while the sun rose between two distant formations... nearly nirvana. A word of caution: The pullover areas have very few guardrails, and the rock is still in a state of erosion and can be very loose, making it possible to lose your footing. Exercise extreme caution while climbing or peering over the edge of a cliff. The Badlands can be dangerous. Keep an eye on adventurous kids.

Except for the Cedar Pass Lodge, Cedar Creek Dining Room and the Visitorís Center (all 3 are in one location), there is little trace of civilization, so make sure you have food, drink and gasoline before entering the park. Aside from prairie dogs, we saw very little wildlife beyond a couple of deer. Kids may become bored quickly if they arenít impressed with the unusual landscape. It all looks the same to them after awhile. If youíre a romantic like me who likes sunrises / sunsets, you wonít want to miss a Badlands sunrise. The park is open 24-hours and if you go early enough to see the sun come up, youíll encounter very few others at the pullovers. Youíll have the Badlands all to yourself!

The park is open 24 hours and admission is $10.00 per private vehicle. Allow 3-4 hours to drive the Badlands Loop Road if you plan to stop at a few of the pullovers.

Also of note: There is a Prairie Dog Town just south of Exit 131 on the way the Badlands entrance, I forget itís exact name, but itís worth a quick stop, particularly with kids. Dozens of these fascinating little rodents scurry every which-a- way. Visitors may tromp around the Prairie Dog Town amongst the super-tame creatures, just be careful not to wrench an ankle in one of the numerous holes. They also have a caged rattlesnake. Prairie dog food (i.e. unsalted peanuts) is available at the adjacent gift shop for just 50 cents. Itís a cheap, quick and fun 15-minute stop.

We visited from about 8-10 PM on a Tuesday and again the next morning - August, 2002

Weather: Sunny and hot with moderate humidity.

BADLANDS PHOTOS (Click on thumbnails for larger image):