Sprawled in the southwest region of South Dakota, the majority of Badlands National Park was carved by wind and rain into a seemingly infinite expanse of canyons, ravines, mesas, buttes and gullies–the sort of harsh, uninhabitable landscape that makes master hikers roll up their sleeves and grit their teeth.
But then there is the softer, more tranquil side of Badlands National Park. Home to fossil-rich terrain and what was once one of the world’s iconic grasslands, the windswept grasses of Badlands National Park stretch for miles with bison-dotted prairie and an artfully maintained ecosystem. You want national parks with equal parts beauty and thrill, Badlands National Park tops them all.
However, the vast grassland at Badlands National Park is marked by a somewhat treacherous human and animal history. Formerly the lifesource of Native American civilizations, the American buffalo roamed the hills in huge herds and were hunted sparingly, but the animal was nearly eradicated from the region due to over-hunting in an effort by the US government to drive Native American tribes westward. Thankfully, since then the buffalo population has been allowed to once more take root and flourish at the heart of the Badlands.
Other spectacular forms of wildlife can be found at each turn in Badlands National Park. For example, prairie dogs were first discovered in the United States by Lewis and Clark in the badlands during their great Western expedition; a single prairie dog was delivered to President Jefferson as a gift and progress report.
If you’re looking to traverse Badlands National Park by vehicle, there is only one paved road in the park, known as Loop Road. This path which weaves through pillars and over narrow passes offers a number of excellent spots for one-of-a-kind photos and camping destinations. For tourism details and more information on the sights and sounds of Badlands National Park, visit the national park’s website and start planning your trek into the inspiring wilderness of South Dakota.