Road Trip Day 4 – The BadlandsPosted: September 26, 2012
I spent last night in Wall, South Dakota. It’s right at the entrance to The Badlands, so no need to drive all morning to get to something to see. On the suggestion of co-workers I stopped by Wall Drug. It’s basically a cowboy themed drug store/strip mall/tourist trap. It first got famous by advertising free ice water to draw in tourists. Considering the climate there, I’m not surprised it worked.
The rest of the morning and a bit of the afternoon was spent in The Badlands. It’s an area that features both sharp erosion and prairie flatlands. The part of the park I visited consists of one loop (highway 240), with only a couple of roads heading to different areas of the park. There are only a few trails; most of the stops are viewing areas where you can take pictures, with about half of them having those educational signs you get in national parks.
Starting out from the west end, you drive through prairie grassland until you get just past the entrance gate. Almost immediately the prairie ends in cliffs, with all the rock formations from erosion stretching out for a while, before ending almost as abruptly into more prairie.
I saw more wildlife here than I expected. When I first stopped to ogle at the geography, there was a herd of bighorn sheep grazing. The herd moved toward the group of people taking pictures and then sort of stopped by the side of the road. All of us ended up going back to our cars, driving up next to the herd, and taking pictures. And the animals didn’t seem to care.
I did almost the same thing with bison about half an hour later. Didn’t get as close, even in a car. Bison are big.
After much gawking at geography and animals, I dropped by the prairie homestead. It’s a restoration of what a typical homestead on the prairie looked like. It was surprising at first that this particular homestead was not settled until after 1900, but that’s when the land was opened up after the Sioux Wars.
Four hours later I stopped at the corn palace. It’s an arena where they decorate the outside with corn.
Today: One long drive to Madison.