Badlands National Park is not a bad thing
Don’t let the name fool you. There is nothing bad about Badlands National Park in South Dakota.
At 244,000 acres, the striking badlands, canyons, and meadows are home to “many resilient creatures, including some of North America’s most endangered species,” according to the National Park Service.
The rock formations themselves are millions of years old, and the history of Earth’s indigenous people dates back to “time immemorial,” according to the Home Office.
There’s a lot to learn at Badlands National Park, the third park in USA TODAY’s year-long series on America’s national parks, but here’s what you should know before you go.
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Where are the Badlands in real life?
Badlands National Park is located in southwestern South Dakota, east of the Black Hills.
It is about 75 miles from Rapid City, the second most populous city in the state. The nearest major airport is Rapid City Regional Airport.
Is Mount Rushmore near the Badlands?
The park is about an hour and a half drive from Mount Rushmore.
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When did the Badlands become a national park?
Badlands National Monument was officially established on January 25, 1939, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It became a national park in 1978.
Why do they call it the Badlands?
First proposed as Wonderland National Park in 1922, the Badlands name pays homage to the Lakota people, who have long called the area Mako Sikaliterally “bad lands,” according to the National Park Service.
The area’s rocky terrain, sometimes harsh weather and lack of water sources, which “are usually muddy and unsafe to drink”, would have made it a difficult place to settle. In fact, the Park Service says, “So far, archaeologists have discovered no sign of permanent habitation in the park. Instead, sites of bonfires, slaughter, and quarries suggest that the badlands served as a seasonal hunting ground for a succession of peoples.”
What Native Americans lived in the Badlands?
More than twenty indigenous tribes historically associated with what is now the Badlands.
The park’s southern unit is actually on Tribal Trust land, “held by the federal government in trust for the use and benefit of members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe,” according to the park.
Why is the Badlands famous?
Badlands National Park has “one of the world’s richest fossil fossils,” according to the National Park Service. More than 19,000 fossils have been discovered at just one site, Big Pig Dig, including the ancestors of the rhino, horse, and deer.
During the summer, visitors can see paleontologists at work in the fossil preparation laboratory.
mark your calendarAdmission to all national parks is free for these five days in 2023
Do I need a reservation at Badlands National Park?
Reservations are not required to enter Badlands National Park. Entrance fee is $30 per vehicle and $25 per motorcycle. For hikers, motorcyclists, and others who do not arrive by car or motorbike, the fee is $15 per person.
How long does it take to pass through Badlands National Park?
You can easily spend anywhere from a few hours to a few days in Badlands National Park. Travelers at short notice can enter the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and drive along the scenic Badlands Loop Road, which takes 1-2 hours. Hiking tours range from one to five hours. Other experience times vary.
When is the best time of year to visit the Badlands?
Travelers may want to visit the Badlands during spring and fall as winters can be cold and windy and summers can be hot and dry, according to the park. However, the Fossil Preparation Lab is only open from mid-June through late September.