The Badlands: Prepare to be Mesmerized

Where would you go if you could drive anywhere in the U.S.?  Have you ever thought about it?  Take a moment and allow yourself to choose a place you would like to see more than any other.  Maybe a particular national park…Yellowstone?  Yosemite?  Grand Canyon?  Acadia?  Maybe a city for you…Austin, Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York?  A geographic region…the mountains of Colorado? the deserts of the SouthWest?  Or maybe an authentic cultural experience…a Texan ranch?  a cajun Louisiana swampboat ride?  a Wyoming rodeo?   Or it could be that the drive itself is what peaks your interest…Route 66?  Overseas Highway to the Florida Keys? Pacific Coast Highway?

Once Chris and I decided to give full-time rving a go, I started dreaming of the places I wanted to experience, not just see.  Driving on the open road, driving off the High Plains and in to the Badlands came together in my mind to form the quintessential image of what I wanted to experience out of this trip.  The Badlands symbolized the best of rving, road trips, exploration, endless night skies, mystery, vistas, big sky, history, and wilderness for me.  It may not have the grandiose impact of other places, but to me, my visions of what it would be like were perfectly entrancing.  And when it came to pass in mid-July that I was in the Badlands of South Dakota, it was as mesmerizing as I had dreamed.

The Badlands, SD

Badlands National Park is located in southwestern South Dakota, and it is about a 2 hour drive from the Black Hills.  The park is divided into two portions:  the popular portion is the North Unit, the southern portion lies on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and is only open seasonally.  To visit the North Unit, there are two places to stay.  The first is Wall, which is known for the Wall Drug store, a famous roadside attraction.  Wall has plenty of restaurants, shops and things to do for visitors, as well as campgrounds.   The second place is Interior, which lies southeast of the North Unit of the park.  Interior could not be more different from Wall:  it has maybe one biker bar and a population of about 94.  To add to the intrigue of The Badlands, we chose Interior for our stay.   

Badlands Map

Below is our campsite.  It looks crowded, but most of those people left after the weekend, and we were mostly on our own.  KOA Interior, SD

If we were not enjoying the sunset in the park, we would view it from the White River, named because it is forever full of silt making it appear opaque and white.  White River. The Badlands, SD

The first few days we were there, The Badlands attempted to shrivel us with highs well above 100 degrees.  Then, a storm rolled in and the temperatures plunged in to the 30s overnight, and we had highs in the 60s with overcast skies the rest of our stay.  The Badlands lived up to its reputation for extremes.

While you will want to explore the Badlands on foot, for those unable to, you can see all that the area offers from your car on the well-planned road that runs through the North Unit.  There are many pull-offs along the road to allow you to get out and enjoy the vistas while searching for buffalo, big horn sheep and other fauna.  Let me give you a glimpse of what you will see from the road through the park…The Badlands, SD

Oh, how I wish I could better show you how deeply The Badlands cut in to the land.  To the North of the park, it is flat grassland that seems never ending, and then the view opens to this…The Badlands, SD

Don’t forget your camera…The Badlands, SD

And the colors vary along the drive…The Badlands, SD

Mesmerized like me?  Well, there is more to come soon!

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