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Badlands National Park

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Badlands National Park [1] is a United States National Park that is located in southwestern South Dakota. This park is marked by rugged terrain and formations that resemble a science fiction landscape of another world. These rock formations take on the shapes of domes, twisted canyons and slanted walls, often striped in different colors. The formations contrast sharply with the rolling hills and prairies in which they stand.

In addition to the rock formations, the park contains the largest, protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. The most endangered land mammal in North America, the black footed ferret, was re-introduced to the 64,000-acres Badlands Wilderness Area. The park also contains the world's richest fossil beds from the Oligocene epoch, dating back around 20-35 million years.

Badlands late summer scene








Drink

Water is available at the visitor centers.

Sleep

Lodging

Cedar Pass Lodge, (605) 433-5460, [2]. Mid-April through mid-October. The the only permanent lodging within Badlands NP.

Camping

There are two campgrounds within the Badlands NP.

  • Cedar Pass Campground. Costs $10 for a site in the summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day), and $8 for a site in the winter, all sites first-come, first-served.
  • Sage Creek Campground. Free campground, all sites first-come, first-served.

Backcountry

Backpackers can camp anywhere in the park that is at least one half mile from the road. Open fires are not permitted within the park. All backpackers are urged to stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, to better plan your trip and to alert the Park Service rangers to your presence.

Stay safe

  • Weather. Badlands NP visitors must come prepared for the weather. Temperatures can exceed 100° F (38° C) in the summer, while winter temperatures can dip below 0° F (-18° C). Temperatures fluctuate through the day, sometimes widely. Thunderstorms and blizzards can come up suddenly.
  • Exposure. Carry plenty of water (1 gallon per person per day), a hat, appropriate sunscreen, and sunglasses. Also consider that the park can be very windy.
  • Wildlife. The animals in the park are less of a threat to visitors who pay them the proper respect. However, ending up on the wrong end of a bison can mean a hospital stay or death for the park visitor. Visitors should also be wary of the poisonous (but seldom deadly) prairie rattlesnakes, a subspecies of the rattlesnake.
  • Prickly pear cactus. These small cacti hide in the prairie grass. Wear shoes with thick soles and watch you step. If their flowers are blooming, they are easier to spot.
  • Water. There is no potable water in the park except at the visitor centers. Boiling, filtering, or treating with chemicals does not make the water drinkable.
  • Getting lost. The vast areas of the park off the established trails or out of the designated areas can become very confusing. Good map reading and land navigation skills required.
  • Unexploded ordnance. The Stronghold unit has any number of unexploded bombs and shells left over from the 1940s when the United States Air Force used the land as a gunnery range. When exploring the area keep an eye out. Do not touch any unexploded ordnance. Note the location and notify park rangers as soon as possible.

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