Badlands National Park – Landscapes

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We’ve rolled into South Dakota for a stopover to visit the Badlands National Park.  It had rained the night before and was cloudy during our visit.  But that didn’t deter our enjoyment of the surrounding beauty as we drove the park’s Highway 240 scenic loop that offered many pullovers for incredible views.

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“I’ve been about the world a lot, and pretty much over our own country; but I was totally unprepared for that revelation called the Dakota Bad Lands.  What I saw gave me an indescribable sense of mysterious elsewhere….a distant architecture, ethereal….an endless supernatural world more spirited than earth but created out of it.”  — Frank Lloyd Wright, 1935

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The Oglala Lakota people were the first to give the site of modern-day Badlands National Park a name.

They called it mako sica, which translates to “land bad”, because its rocky terrain, lack of water, and extreme temperatures made it difficult to traverse.

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The Badlands striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds.  The saber tooth cat once roamed these lands.

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Every twist and turn along the scenic loop afforded striking landscapes.

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For wildlife lovers, it is suggested to take the park’s Sage Creek Rim Road (gravel road) off the main scenic loop, which was towards the end of our drive.  Wildlife did not disappoint.

These next photos were taken from Sage Creek Rim Road.

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Bison roaming the prairie, “tan” spots are Prairie Dog home entrances

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“Let sculptors come to the Badlands.  Let painters come.  But first of all the true architect should come.  He who could interpret this vast gift of nature in terms of human habitation so that Americans on their own continent might glimpse a new and higher civilization certainly, and touch it and feel it as they lived in it and deserved to call it their own. Yes, I say the aspects of the Dakota Badlands have more spiritual quality to impart to the mind of America than anything else in it made by man’s God.”  — Frank Lloyd Wright 1935

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Herd of Bison

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There is also a southern unit of Badlands National Park located on the Pine Ridge Reservation and managed in cooperation with the Oglala Sioux Tribe.  Due to Covid-19, it was still closed in accordance with Oglala Sioux Tribe ordinances.

More to come from the Badlands NP…..the wildlife!

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69 thoughts on “Badlands National Park – Landscapes

    • Thank you, Ellen! The Badlands is also mixed with prairies and canyon passes full of greenery. I imagine the mid-summer extreme heat takes over but it’s beautifully blooming life right now!

  1. I was there once! During early afternoon the temperature was near 120ºF, it didn’t
    deter me from walking through the “labyrinth” of paths deep into the Badlands. I enjoyed every minute of it! At night it’s when the fun started, there was a tremendous storm, more flashes and thunders that I ever saw. I was lodged in an Inn, watching through the window the violence of the storm, when the a lightening hit a transformer up a pole at about 50 feet from my window! First time I saw lightening hit something that exploded and caught fire. I was so impressed with the experience. I loved that visit to Badlands Nat. Pk! I hope that you too! 🙂

    • I read the storms over the Badlands can be very violent, you experienced proof, whoa! I visited the Badlands many times when I was 4-5 yrs old, my dad was stationed at nearby Ellsworth AFB. I can remember helping my dad look for fossils. 🙂

  2. Those views are simply stunning! I had heard of the Badlands but never knew it was so beautiful. It is quite a unique landscape. And to see the bison as well! What a great place for a stopover.

  3. You bring back such delightful memories… of when I was young and foolish and heading across the continent in my little VW bug… The 60s/70s were such a very different world. But there’s still that same feeling of wonderment when it comes to seeing some of our greatest treasures. Great job, Donna, capturing the beauty and tranquility of this marvelous place. Great choice of quotes to go with! ☺️

    • Oh, I love to drum up your memories, Gunta! I can just see you in your VW adventuring!! 🙂 You are right, there are so many beautiful wonderments we have in this country to see and explore. The Badlands was stunning, such diversity!

  4. What a beautiful place! Your photos bring back memories of our first trip out west with our girls, back in 1983. The Badlands was the first really interesting place we stopped on our travels to Flathead Lake, MT. Thanks for sharing. I love your itinerary!

    • Thank you, Susan, so glad to bring back memories for you! I actually used to live nearby the Badlands when I was 4-5 yrs old, my dad was stationed at Ellsworth AFB. I can remember walking the Badlands looking for fossils with my dad. 🙂

    • Thank you, Eliza! I was excited seeing the bison. We saw several small herds and got close to a few (post coming!). I read there once were anywhere from 30-75 million bison roaming the U.S. By the early 1900’s there were only 1,000 bison. Conservation was put into effect at that time, and thankfully today, there’s about 500,000. 🙂

  5. Those are gorgeous. I spent some time in South Dakota in 2002. I have some pictures…somewhere. My ex-Marine and I traveled all over the place before I started a new job in Texas.

  6. Wow! This is spectacular. I love the Quotes of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Oglala Sioux. Would love to visit that part of the country but the temperatures and rough-going would make it almost unbearable. It is very special to see the land with the Bison Herds, though those in the older times would number in the thousands. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to the wildlife shots.

    • Thank you, Jane! I think spring is a perfect time for visiting the Badlands. By summer the temps can reach well over the 100sF, not so comfortable. I was excited seeing the bison, a post on them forthcoming!

  7. Mysterious and ethereal, indeed — I agree with Frank Lloyd Wright. Thank you so much sharing these pictures! My parents went here in the 1980s before my mom died but they didn’t bring back pictures. Now I can imagine what they must have seen. Seeing that herd of bison must have been thrilling.

  8. What a magnificent twisted landscape well captured by you. One can only imagine coming across this labyrinth of confused valleys back in the days of horse and wagon, a very fitting name.

    • Thank you, the layered colors throughout were just awesome!. And being springtime, the new healthy green growth everywhere showed the diversity the harsh environment allowed.

  9. Pingback: Badlands National Park – Bighorn Sheep | Photos by Donna

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