1. WILDLIFE ON THE OPEN PRAIRIE
The American Bison is a historic icon of the Great Plains and Badlands National Park. The park is one of the best places to see these magnificent animals in their natural and undisturbed habitat. At Badlands, bison roam the 64,000 acre wilderness area in the western side of the North Unit. Along with the mighty bison the mixed grass prairie land of Badlands is home to many other animal species such as Bighorn Sheep, Deer and Pronghorn. Prairie Dogs are a common sight through the park and are a keystone species to the parks ecological community.
It would take about one hour to drive the 30-mile loop of South Dakota Highway 240 between the towns of Cactus Flat and Wall without stopping, but almost no one does that. Breathtaking rock formations and native grasslands filled with numerous species of plants and animals guarantee you’ll want to pause somewhere along the route to enjoy the view. Nearly 30 scenic overlooks make for outstanding photo opportunities. Stretch your legs along one of the many hiking trails and remember to keep your eyes peeled for the black-footed ferret, one of North America’s most endangered animals. More commonly seen wildlife includes pronghorn antelope, mule deer, prairie dogs and numerous birds. Buffalo can most often be found along the Sage Creek Rim Road, a gravel spur off the western end of the Badlands Loop Road (TravelSouthDakota.com)
With its relatively remote location out on the western plains of South Dakota, the clarity of the Milky Way Galaxy, stars and satellites as seen from Badlands National Park is amazing. The dark night skies out here aren't muddled by light pollution coming from any nearby city and it seems only fitting that one might experience such a night sky experience in an already other-worldly landscape like the Badlands. On any given night, one camping under the stars could see over 7,500 stars in the Badlands night sky.During the summer the park even offers up a Night Sky Program on Friday - Monday nights at the Cedar Pass Campground Amphitheater. Here park rangers and volunteers can showcase and share all the sky beholds like constellations, nebulae, planets and stars during the 60-minute program. Telescopes are provided by Badlands National Park through their park partners. Over the past three years the park has also held the Badlands Astronomy Festival at the end of July which brings together space science professionals, astronomers, educators and anyone with an interest in the moon and stars for a weekend of traveling the universe through lectures, stories and star-gazing. (Blackhillsbadlands.com)
Badlands National Park and South Dakota may seem like the middle of nowhere to some, but think again. Badlands sits in the heart of the Black Hills where a plethora of national and state parks, memorials, monuments and scenic byways criss cross the country side. Your less than 90 minutes away from amazing destinations like Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park. Drive a little further and you can be at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Devils Tower, Bear Butte State Park and many other unforgettable destinations.