Badlands National Park

✍️ 🕑 September 14-15, 2021 • Series: Go West, Young Lad • Tags: prairie dogsbadlandswildlife photographybird photographytourist trapsNational ParksBadlands National ParkSouth Dakota • Places: Badlands National Park Wall Drug Sage Creek Campground

When I entered South Dakota, in my mind, at least, I was far west enough to start hitting some really famous national parks, and some really beautiful places. (And for that matter, some 80 mph speed limits on the Interstates...)


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I remember visiting the Badlands as a kid, and I was stoked to return.

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Badlands

Badlands National Park is breathtaking.

And, it's home to a lot of very easy trails that get visitors from their car to viewpoints with minimal effort, like the Door/Window or Cliff Shelf Nature trails.


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The Badlands themselves are formed via erosion of soil and soft sedimentary rock over time, leading to formations that visitors flock to see.


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Though I might personally rail at the car-centricity of the average national park, it's good that people can experience this beauty, particularly if they aren't otherwise physically able.

Despite the harsh environment, life is abundant, if you know where to look.
Despite the harsh environment, life is abundant, if you know where to look. open_in_full   info  map

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Castle Trail

I wanted to stretch my legs a little more, so I embarked on part of the Castle Trail.


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Most of the reviews for this trail point out the lack of shade, and the heat of the sun... For that reason, they suggest not doing it at high noon.


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I, however, in my infinite wisdom, set out around noontime, and turned back before reaching the trail's end.

Trail Information
Name Castle Trail
Type point-to-point
Location Badlands National Park
State SD
Country USA
Miles 5
Check out the trails index for information on more trails!

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Wall Drug

Anyone driving along the interstate sees a myriad of billboards for Wall Drug, senselessly bombarding the senses even from hundreds of miles away.

Like all good tourists, I stopped into visit this tourist trap.


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It's an ineffable concoction of funfair, arcade, giftshop, and 'museum', juxtaposing historic photographs with animatronic dinosaurs.


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It's home to fountains, restaurants... a drug store (somewhere), a chapel, and a jackalope you can pose for pictures with.


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I skipped the food there due to my desire to avoid indoor dining with large amounts of unmasked people, and to skip the long, long queues as well.


Flowers near Sage Creek
Flowers near Sage Creek open_in_full   info

Sage Creek

Returning to the park, I headed to the Sage Creek Campground, where I hoped to grab a coveted first-come, first-serve no-reservations primitive, free campsite.


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I succeeded, and relaxed near the pack of prairie dogs that also call the campground their home.


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A pronghorn deer was also visible nearby.


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A jackrabbit was cooling off in the shade.


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Sooner or later, I too, had cooled off. I went to bed, hearing numerous howls throughout the night.


In the morning, I went for a brief, brisk walk before I headed off. I saw quite a lot!

A coyote in the distance
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There are a number of "trails" in the Saddle Creek area, but owing to the park's open hiking policy, one is free to wander wherever they like.

A black-billed magpie in flight
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A black-billed magpie coming in for a landing near two others
A black-billed magpie coming in for a landing near two others open_in_full   info  map
Bird identification is tricky when they're bathed with morning light...
Bird identification is tricky when they're bathed with morning light... open_in_full   info
A Killdeer, hanging out by the creek.
A Killdeer, hanging out by the creek. open_in_full   info  map

But, one day at Badlands National Park was enough for me. I headed onwards.

This time, to the south!