Scenic USA - South Dakota

Big Badlands Overlook

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Big Badlands Overlook - Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Photo by Ben Prepelka
Inset photos courtesy of the NPS

     The Big Badlands Overlook is the first grand view as you enter Badlands National Park Palmer Creek Rock Formations - Badlands National Park, South Dakota from the east. Located in southwestern South Dakota, just to the south of Interstate 90, the Badlands occupy 244,000 acres of a mixed-grass prairie. In a very arid topography, the eroded land is better known for its barren buttes, sharpened pinnacles, and one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Some of the ancient fossil remnants include the bones of camels, three-toed horses, oreodonts, rhinoceroses, deer and antelope-like mammals, rabbits, beavers, creodonts, land turtles, rodents and birds. Even though the land is unusable by ranchers and farmers, Burrowing Owl - Badlands National Park, South Dakota many animal and plants consider these badlands home. Varying from the tiny burrowing owl to the massive buffalo, the badlands offer visitors a chance to see mule deer, bighorn sheep, bobcats, badgers, amphibians and reptiles.
     Home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the period of the 1890s Ghost Dances are one of the most familiar pages of recent Native history. The Ghost Dance movement marked the end of typical Indian life as great changes came to the territory. With more and more homesteaders moving into South Dakota, many Oglala Sioux became followers of the Indian prophet Wovoca. Badlands Buffalo - Badlands National Park, South Dakota His vision called for his people to dance the Ghost Dance and wear Ghost Shirts that would be impervious to bullets. Wovoca predicted that the white man would vanish and their hunting grounds would be restored. It was not to be. In late December, 1890, a band of Minneconjou Sioux Indians crossed paths with the U.S. Army just 45 miles south of the park. In this skirmish nearly two hundred Indians and thirty soldiers were killed. The massacre at the Wounded Knee Battlefield was the last major conflict between the American Indians and the U.S. Military.
     The park's 19 mile long loop offers over a dozen scenic overlooks. A handful of trails offer the best way to experience the park. Day hikes vary from the quarter mile Fossil Exhibit Trail to the 10 mile Castle Trail. Some of the best times to view the landscape here in the badlands come at sunset or sunrise when shadows create impressive contrasts and enrich the earth's colors.

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