black hills and the badlands

Black Hills and Badlands Featured Destination:

Badlands National Park
Interior, South Dakota

The promise of seeing an adorable family of prairie dogs in the wild is reason enough to want to visit Badlands National Park in South Dakota, despite its ominous name, which comes from its rugged terrain of weather-worn rock spires and flattened buttes. The rough land gives way to grassy prairies, creating 244,000 acres of striking landscape with huge ecological importance.

The North America film crew met a cast of animal characters in the park including prairie dogs, burrowing owls and ferruginous hawks. But a laundry list of North America animal stars reside in the park: American bison, pronghorns, bighorn sheep, coyotes, swift foxes, elk, bobcats, porcupines, badgers, bald eagles and mountain lions.

You could encounter all the animals of the Great Plains in one stop, so you'll want to make the best of it by heading straight for the Badland Wilderness area on the west side of the park. Just off Sage Creek Rim Road stop by Robert's Prairie Dog Town for that dream prairie dog sighting. Bobcats, badgers and swift foxes are known to make an appearance here, too.

Best Time to Visit:

The park hosts guided hikes and talks with rangers in the summer, but note that summers can be very hot and dry with occasional thunderstorms. Try to avoid the heat of the day for animal watching; the best time is at dusk or dawn.

What to Do:

If you are really committed to seeing animals, you'll want to stay awhile. Consider roughing it and pitching a tent in the Sage Creek Campground to get up bright and early for prime bison viewing, or stay at the Cedar Pass Lodge near the park visitor center. Take plenty of time to drive along the Badlands Loop to stop at scenic overlooks like the Ancient Hunters Overlook to see bighorn sheep or the Homestead Overlook for grazing pronghorns. If you get bored with searching for modern day animals, try looking for prehistoric ones at the Saber Site Fossil Quarry. Get Directions

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