My husband and I were fortunate to be able to take a road trip vacation this year through South Dakota and Wyoming. This is the first in a series of posts I want to do about the places we visited.
Badlands National Park was the first place that we went. Not knowing what to expect I was awed by the landscape, and couldn't help but wonder what travelers in earlier times, before the ability to share photographs, might have thought coming upon this with no warning. The area was established first as a monument in 1939 and redesignated as a national park in 1978. It is an interesting mixture of formations that came about through erosion, from buttes and pinnacles to spires.
Though desolate in appearance it actually is teeming with wildlife. There is a large praire dog colony around the edge of the northwest side of the park. We saw a few solitary buffalo in the distance, and got up close and almost personal with a bighorn sheep when it came up over the side to the top where we were standing. We just edged out of the way, and it continued on, I'm sure not as surprised as we were with the number of visitors that come to the park all the time. The area is also rich in fossils, some of the most important being those of early horses, allowing scientists to trace the evolutionary history from the 5-toed animals to the horses we are more familiar with today.
There is much human history in the area as well. The Ogalala Lakota of the Sioux Nation are co-managers of the area, and evidence of habitation stretches back into pre-historic times. In more recent times, the southern unit of the park was used as a bomb and gunnery range by the US Military. This area has been returned to the Sioux, and while attempts were made to remove any unexploded munitions, I did see warnings in some media to be aware there may be more there and to alert rangers if they were found. This area of the park is not as easily accessible as the main park, so we did not visit (we're not big hikers), but photos showed some very interesting formations there.
For more information on this area, see the official website for Badlands National Park and Wikipedia. I also shared information from this Badlands book we picked up while there. It is well worth a visit!