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The Lakota gave this land its name, “Mako Sica,” meaning “land bad.” Located in southwestern South Dakota, Badlands National Park consists of 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires blended with the largest protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. It is desolation at its truest, where you can look for miles and see no sign of civilization.
This land has been so ruthlessly ravaged by wind and water that it has become picturesque. The Badlands are a wonderland of bizarre, colorful spires and pinnacles, massive buttes and deep gorges. Erosion of the Badlands reveals sedimentary layers of different colors: purple and yellow (shale), tan and gray (sand and gravel), red and orange (iron oxides) and white (volcanic ash).
Badlands National Park also preserves the world’s greatest fossil beds of animals from the Oligocene Epoch of the Age of Mammals. The skeletons of ancient camels, three-toed horses, saber-toothed cats and giant rhinoceros-like creatures are among the many fossilized species found here. All fossils, rocks, plants and animals are protected and must remain where you find them. Prehistoric bones are still being uncovered today by park officials.
Come enjoy this park’s biological diversity. The Badlands are home to the largest mixed grass prairie in the National Park System and is surrounded by the Buffalo Gap National Grassland. Wildlife roams the park's boundaries as well. Bison, pronghorn, mule and whitetail deer, prairie dogs, coyotes, butterflies, turtles, snakes, bluebirds, vultures, eagles and hawks are just some of the wildlife that can often be seen by visitors. In 1994, the near-extinct Black-footed ferrets were reintroduced into the Badlands prairie. These nocturnal animals are rarely seen by the visiting public.
The rugged beauty of the Badlands draws visitors from around the world. These striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Ancient horses and rhinos once roamed here. The park’s 244,000 acres protect an expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets live today.
Badlands National Park has something to offer every visitor. Families? Attend a Junior Ranger Program and hike Fossil Exhibit Trail, a great place for little ones to explore. Experienced hikers? Check out a social trail and backcountry camp for the night. Sore feet from days of exploring? Drive the Badlands Loop Road and keep an eye out for wildlife!
Badlands National Park Articles
Rapid City (Lakota: Mni Lúzahaŋ Otȟúŋwahe; "Swift Water City") is the second most populous city in South Dakota and the county seat of Pennington County. Named after Rapid Creek, where the settlement developed, it is in western South Dakota, on the Black Hills' eastern slope. The population was 67,956 as of the 2010 Census.Known as the "Gateway to the Black Hills" and the "City of Presidents" because of the life-size bronze president statues downtown, Rapid City is split by a low mountain ridge that divides the city's western and eastern parts. Ellsworth Air Force Base is on the city's outskirts. Camp Rapid, part of the South Dakota Army National Guard, is in the city's western part. Rapid City is home to such attractions as Art Alley, Dinosaur Park, the City of Presidents walking tour, Chapel in the Hills, Storybook Island, and Main Street Square. The historic "Old West" town of Deadwood is nearby. In the neighboring Black Hills are the tourist attractions of Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, and the museum at the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, and to the city's east is Badlands National Park.
Keystone is a town in the Black Hills region of Pennington County, South Dakota, United States. The population was 337 at the 2010 census. It had its origins in 1883 as a mining town, and has since transformed itself into a resort town, serving the needs of the millions of visitors to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, which is located just beyond city limits. Keystone was heavily damaged in the 1972 Black Hills flood. The town took its name from a local mine, which most likely was named after the keystone Masonic symbol.
Hot Springs (Lakota: mni kȟáta; "hot water") is a city in and county seat of Fall River County, South Dakota, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 3,711. In addition, neighboring Oglala Lakota County contracts the duties of Auditor, Treasurer and Register of Deeds to the Fall River County authority in Hot Springs.
Custer is a city in Custer County, South Dakota, United States. The population was 2,067 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Custer County.
The Black Hills (Lakota: Ȟe Sápa; Cheyenne: Moʼȯhta-voʼhonáaeva; Hidatsa: awaxaawi shiibisha) is a small and isolated mountain range rising from the Great Plains of North America in western South Dakota and extending into Wyoming, United States. Black Elk Peak (formerly known as Harney Peak), which rises to 7,244 feet (2,208 m), is the range's highest summit. The Black Hills encompass the Black Hills National Forest. The name "Black Hills" is a translation of the Lakota Pahá Sápa. The hills are so called because of their dark appearance from a distance, as they are covered in evergreen trees.Native Americans have a long history in the Black Hills. After conquering the Cheyenne in 1776, the Lakota took the territory of the Black Hills, which became central to their culture. In 1868, the U.S. government signed the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, establishing the Great Sioux Reservation west of the Missouri River, and exempting the Black Hills from all white settlement forever. However, when settlers discovered gold there in 1874, as a result of George Armstrong Custer's Black Hills Expedition, miners swept into the area in a gold rush. The US government took the Black Hills and, in 1889, reassigned the Lakota, against their wishes, to five smaller reservations in western South Dakota, selling off 9 million acres (36,000 km2) of their former land. Unlike most of South Dakota, the Black Hills were settled by European Americans primarily from population centers to the west and south of the region, as miners flocked there from earlier gold boom locations in Colorado and Montana.As the economy of the Black Hills has shifted away from natural resources (mining and timber) since the late 20th century, the hospitality and tourism industries have grown to take its place. Locals tend to divide the Black Hills into two areas: "The Southern Hills" and "The Northern Hills." The Southern Hills is home to Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Black Elk Peak (the highest point in the United States east of the Rockies, formerly and still more commonly known as Harney Peak), Custer State Park (the largest state park in South Dakota), the Crazy Horse Memorial, and The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, the world's largest mammoth research facility. Attractions in the Northern Hills include Spearfish Canyon, historic Deadwood, and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, held each August. The first Rally was held on August 14, 1938, and the 75th Rally in 2015 saw more than one million bikers visit the Black Hills. Devils Tower National Monument, located in the Wyoming Black Hills, is an important nearby attraction and was the United States' first national monument.