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Badlands National Park -- Road Trip Day 5


After visiting the Great River Bluffs, the next stop on our roadtrip from Pennsylvania to Washington was Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Dogs are not allowed on any trails here, or at most national parks for that matter, especially in the west. It was also 102 degrees F on the day that we visited. Yes, we're the crazies visiting during the hottest part of the year. It just happened that way.  Needless to say...our car idled a lot with the AC blasting to keep the dogs cool, while we pulled off to see the views along the park's 'loop' road. 

There were some amazing sights to be seen despite not being able to do any true trails or hikes. There were some small walks to go see sights so my GF and I would alternate and grab the views while the other stayed with the dogs in the car. Just trying to be economical here right? See as many sights as possible while also being a good dog parent.

Beware Rattlesnakes Badlands
BEWARE. RATTLESNAKES! We didn't see any Rattlesnakes but we swear we heard some!


Like I mentioned on previous days, we actually had to change our itinerary for lodging quite a bit. We had a lot of campgrounds, tipis, and primitive cabins planned but the insane heatwave that was blanketing the country forced us to change things. MAYBE we'd suck it up and camp in 102 degree weather by ourselves, but not with two dogs. We found some air conditioned cabins at KOAs and hotels along the way. You GOTTA be resilient on these kind of trips right???

Bandlands Painted Rocks
Look at those colorful bands!


 It was truly a unique experience, and the first park to really look different from anything we've seen before out East. You could definitely tell we made headway on our road trip after seeing this place. The other places and other parks were beautiful, but the Badlands were a punch in the face. A punch saying "YOU AREN'T IN PENNSYLVANIA ANYMORE. OR EVEN THE EAST". What a wild feeling.

Sunflower trying at Badlands
Life finds a way with this trying Sunflower in 100+ degree weather!

Look at all that erosion! Everything was so strikingly neat here! There were quite a bit of people here. In fact we waited at the entrance gates in a line for quite some time before getting in. That's one thing I wish the National Park Service would figure out. Sitting in our cars idling for so long can't be the best thing for the immediate environment, or the environment over all. Some National Parks actually have America The Beautiful "Pass Holder" entrance lines to make things go quicker. This is a good idea, but could also be implemented better too.


A Jagged Rock Fence -- Badlands
Spiky badlands poking the sky. This doesn't even look real, but it certainly was.

Boardwalk to Viewpoint -- Badlands NP
A boardwalk out to a viewpoint! Look at that sprawling vastness.

prairies and badlands
Prairies and Badlands

The badland formations often appear as "islands" surrounded by expansive mixed-grass prairies. These prairies are themselves complex ecosystems that play a critical role in the park's biodiversity. The grasses vary in height and type, each adapted to the park's highly variable climate, which can range from hot, dry summers to cold, snowy winters. On this 100+ degree day, it's hard to believe winter exists in this place. I'm sure its just as brutal.

These mixed-grass prairies create a habitat for a variety of animals, many of which have adapted to the harsh environmental conditions, I would hope. Bison and bighorn sheep graze the land, while pronghorns can be seen running through the prairies.. We saw a pronghorn for far away...but boy did we see prairie dogs. Hundreds. Thousands? In the prairie. On the sides of the road (please drive slowly here), in their mounds, everywhere.

Prairie Dogs in Prairie Dog Town Badlands NP
No dogs on trails! Well I guess Prairie Dogs don't count, huh?

Burrowing animals like prairie dogs construct extensive underground towns, and rattlesnakes make their home in the park's crevices and canyons. We were able to walk right up to where the prairie dogs live (In Prairie Dog Town of course) and watch them. It was adorable and hilarious. 


Cool Flowers
Gotta love any flower that can survive this weather!


The park's climate adds another layer of complexity to its ecosystems. The semi-arid conditions result in sparse vegetation and make water a precious resource for the area.  Sudden weather changes, including thunderstorms with intense rainfall, can and do lead to flash floods that further shape the landscape. We actually had an awesome thunderstorm when we got to our cabin that night after the insane heat. It was a magnificent show of lightning. There was a bit of hail as well!


Greenery and colors at Badlands!
I was not expecting these colors!


Badlands Wide View
A wonderfully beautiful park! Sights go on for miles!

 IDK man. These lands were pretty good. I wouldn't consider them bad. Why are they called badlands anyway?

Man that's so cool!

The term "badlands" actually originates from the Lakota people, who called the area "mako sica," (Yes, like Makoshika State Park in Montana) translating roughly to "bad lands." This name was given due to the harsh and rugged terrain, which was challenging to traverse and offered limited resources for survival.Totally appropriately named!

This was definitely an awesome and must see National Park to see! We did not make it to Wall Drug. I'm not sure what the appeal is. It's just a huge drug store? I was chastised for not visiting by some people. It just seems like a silly waste of time. Much like Mount Rushmore. Didn't visit there either. I'd rather see a non-defaced mountain, but that's just me.

KOA Lodging

After a long hot day, we drove a short distance to the Badlands / White River KOA to our (Air Conditioned) primitive cabin. We took a break from cooking on the propane stove and got something from the "Cook Shack". I think it was more I was exhausted from the heat to want to cook anything over a flame in the first place! I got a Bison Burger with fries. It was...okay...apparently they have Philly Cheesesteaks too which is kind of fascinating...I'll be the judge of that.

Follow us to Day 6 on the Road Trip! We checked out Wind Cave National Park.


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