Badlands National Park is located in southwestern South Dakota. It comprises approximately 244,000 acres (379 sq miles) of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires blended with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the U.S. The area was established as a National Monument in 1939 and designated as a National Park in 1978.
Driving through the park you can spot bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs (who provide endless entertainment), and any number of birds. The park is also home to the black-footed ferret, once of the most endangered mammals in the U.S. In addition to these modern day animals, the park’s geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse, and saber-toothed cat once roamed this area.
I admit, I didn’t really know much about this park prior to our visit (I was too busy / excited learning about Mount Rushmore). However, it was a truly pleasant surprise, particularly given the name! There was wildlife everywhere and the colors were simply stunning. It’s a particularly interesting area in that when you’re driving towards it (at least from Rapid City), you seem to come upon this area all of a sudden. Compared to the rolling grasslands surrounding it, this area does indeed seem like “bad land.” But this park is living proof that there’s good to be had everywhere, even in the “bad.” 🙂