Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Field Trip: Badlands National Park, South Dakota

In August 2009 we took a trip out west, which I never finished blogging about. (You'll find my five Western Adventure posts here.)

It was a wonderful vacation/field trip filled with history, science, and fun family memories that I want to preserve here on my blog, so over the summer you'll see a sprinkling of backposts retelling our Western Adventure.

First let's head out to the Badlands of beautiful South Dakota.

Just after checking out from our little cabin in Wall, SD. From here we headed out to drive through Badlands National Park. You might be able to tell that the kids are shivering in this photo. It was unexpectedly chilly and windy that morning.

This is what our first glimpse of the Badlands looked like.These pictures do not do justice to the beautiful bands of color that make up the rugged spires and pinnacles. We noticed that the muted colors changed hues as we drove through the park.

The Badlands are the largest protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. For the entire two-hour drive through the park we were surrounded by these beautifully rugged hills alternating with vast, flat praire-land. We made several stops to get out of the car and take in the scenery. (No, we did not see any rattlesnakes - very thankful for that!)

Extremely high winds are common year round, and it was indeed windy on this particular day. (Our jackets were in the car, and I can't remember why we weren't wearing them!)

This picture gives a little bit better idea of the multitude of colors found there. These geologic deposits contain one of the world's richest fossil beds. We did not have time to participate in one of the Junior Ranger programs here, but we did at other National Parks later in our trip, and I do recommend them. Be aware that during many of these programs the park rangers will allude to an old earth and evolutionary theory. We simply used these opportunities to discuss the truths of Creation found in the Bible.

Our first wildlife encounter...prairie dogs! These little fellows are difficult to see in the photo, but they were hilarious to watch in real life. They darted quickly from hole to hole in their "town", and when we rolled down our windows we could hear their calls. The Badlands' 244,000 acres are also home to bison, bighorn sheep, deer, pronghorn, and black-footed ferrets. We did see some bighorn sheep, but I couldn't get a decent photo. I imagine if we had been able to spend more time in the park we would have also seen some of the other wildlife.

A few more interesting facts:
  • The Badlands National Park was first established as a National Monument in 1939 and became a National Park in 1978.
  • Of the 244,000 acres, 64,144 is designated as Wilderness Area.
  • The Park is co-managed with the Oglala Lakota Nation.
  • Located in southwestern South Dakota, the park is a mixed grass ecosystem that is unlike any other on earth.
  • For more information, check out the National Park Service website.

 Well that's it for this installment of our Western Adventure. Thanks for joining me!


  1. We have taken a trip to SD and it was a great family vacation!

  2. This looks like such a fun trip! We just returned not too long ago from a trip out west - though not as far as you went. (We did consider it, but just didn't have the time to drive any further west. Maybe next time.) This looks like a beautiful place!


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