Day 22 – Exploring Badlands National Park

Monday, September 13, 2010
Miles To Date: 
2 506

Our day started extra early since we woke up at 6.15am to watch the sun rise over the national park. This was a great site since the sky was completely clear, but we immediately went back to bed after it had risen!

When we woke up properly we left Interior and set off on the scenic route around Badlands. It was our first national park of the trip so we bought our nationwide park passes since we are visiting quite a few over the coming weeks. The park itself is huge – we only explored a small part of it and the route we took was over 30 miles. Luckily it is very car friendly, with a large paved stretch that leads right around some of the most interesting sites and viewpoints.

On the way we passed a ‘Fossil Exhibit Trail’, which showcased some of the thousands of fossils found in the park. There was a park ranger there giving a talk and she explained how tourists exploring has lead to a number of discoveries. These included an ancient waterhole where over 30 different species were found. Unfortunately we didn’t see any while we were walking around, though we did have to watch out for rattlesnakes!

When we got to the end of the paved path we decided to continue on an off-road stretch for about 10 miles or so. This was definitely worth doing since it took us through the Badlands wilderness area where bison are free to roam. We also saw dozens of prairie dogs running around and managed to get within a few metres of some (though they were squeaking quite loudly at us to get away!).

Once we got back to the main road we completed our journey to the other major city of South Dakota: Rapid City. It seems a lot nicer than Sioux Falls here and the people seem relatively normal considering how isolated it is. In the evening we popped into the local mall where they had two large cowboy attire shops amongst the usual highstreet names, as well as a fur shop where they encourage you to wear the local wildlife!

Photo(s) of the day: a panorama from one of the many viewpoints in the park (click to enlarge), and a rather content prairie dog sitting in the sun.