Encompassing 244,000 acres of otherworldly landscapes, Badlands National Park is located in southwestern South Dakota, just southeast of the Black Hills (click here to see our Video Share last year featuring the Black Hills National Forest). Not exactly overrun with crowds or tourist attractions, the Badlands is off the beaten path and perhaps represents desolation in its purest form, where you can look for miles in any direction and see no signs of civilization. This land has been so ruthlessly ravaged by winds, rain, and the elements over the past half a million years that it actually has evolved into a uniquely picturesque wonderland of bizarre shapes, colorful rocks, jagged spires, fissured slopes, and deep gorges. These strange geological formations are juxtaposed by the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the National Park System, home to a plethora of wildlife including coyotes, whitetail deer, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, eagles, hawks, rattlesnakes, and the largest mammal in North America — the American Bison. In the mid-1990’s, the near-extinct black-footed ferret was also reintroduced in the Badlands prairie, although these nocturnal animals are rarely seen by the visiting public.
As you will soon see in this breathtaking video brought to you by the Pattiz brothers and our friends at More Than Just Parks, the erosion of the Badlands reveals sedimentary layers reflecting magnificent hues of purple, yellow, tan, gray, red and orange. The best time to visit the park is in the late afternoon or early morning when the low angle of the sun accentuates the beautiful coloration of the striking rock formations. A 30-mile road winds through the park past many viewing points. However, many feel that the parks hiking trails are the best way to appreciate the dramatic landscape.
Why would something so stunningly beautiful be called “bad”? The Native American Lakota people, also known as the Teton Sioux, were the first to call this area “mako sica,” which literally translates to “bad lands.” Later in the nineteenth century, early French fur trappers called the area “les mauvaises terres a traveser” (which translates to “bad lands to travel across”). The jagged terraine, hot dry summers and lack of water sources quite literally made this land hard to navigate and difficult to survive in. An amusing and rather ironic fun fact: In 1922, when Badlands was first proposed as a national park, the suggested name was Wonderland National Park!
We hope you enjoy this month’s Travel Video share featuring Badlands National Park. Happy Travels in 2023!
The Avant Team