A walk on the strange side

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by VanessaK on August 18, 2011

Have you ever been driving and you come across a stretch of land that looks like something from a science fiction movie? When you are in South Dakota driving east from the Black Hills this is what we found. First you are enjoying the lush green mountains and trees then all of a sudden the green fields turn into a large, jagged, sunken, brown, desolate crater. It is in awe and wonderment you look across this strange landscape called the Badlands.

This part of South Dakota was under water some million or so years ago. The movement of the earth through gushes of water and earthquakes created this large, cavern of spikes, hills and caves. I was not prepared for what I saw; it looked like we had been transported to another planet or the moon. The landscape is so very different from the surrounding green fields full of livestock and lush plants. It is really difficult to describe how it truly looks with its reddish hills and tan sands shimmering under the sun. The climate is also very different from the surrounding areas. It is hot and humid with few, if any, trees or grass. It resembles a desert of sorts but the colors are amazing. You can actually see the layers of earth which change with the hours of the day. They say that the structure changes with each rain, which makes sense because to touch it feels a lot like sand. Surrounding this odd crater of land is dry grassland where you can see buffalo roaming free. I guess this is where the Indians and others settled to make their homes. It’s hard to imagine people for centuries have made their homes here. What did they live on? I wouldn’t think you could grow much here.

On this trip my uncle came along, he was mesmerized by the sight. None of us had ever seen such a beautifully odd area. He was the first one to get out of the car and reach out to touch the crumbling rocks. He said with all his years of hunting and exploring the outdoors, he had never seen such a place as this. With not another person or animal in sight we felt like we had stumbled across something wonderful but weird. We decided to take a walk through the hiking trails that lead you through some of the places fossils have been found. Starting in the times of the Lakota Indians, fossils of strange animals have been unearthed. A little research told me that the fossils were of prehistoric fish, rhinos, and saber toothed cats. These fossils were created millions of years ago and yet we are able to see them yet today. It was truly amazing.

Once we had driven and hiked the land, we drove out of the crater to the grasslands. From here you can see the flat green fields giving way to the land that was once ripped open by the force of earthquakes and land shifting. I’ve never stepped on the moon, but somehow I think it would look a lot like the Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

I hope you visit a great website explaining the Badlands at www.badlands.national-park.com. When you visit the park, don’t forget to stop at the visitor’s center, book store and gift shop. It is the only bathrooms in the park and the gift shop has beautiful, original Indian made jewelry. In addition to a day trip you can make use of the campgrounds, but be aware the winters can be brutal with 2+ feet of snow. I really recommend this wonder of a national park and for the inexpensive amount of around $15 per car it is a family friendly place to visit.
Badlands National Park
25216 Ben Reifel Road
Badlands National Park, South Dakota, 57750
(605) 433-5361


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