From the jagged, lunar-like landscape at Badlands National Park to the underground wonders at Jewel Cave National Monument and the colossal faces that symbolize our country’s freedom at the Shrine of Democracy, the region’s national parks offer six more reasons to visit the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Few attractions stir the emotions of visitors the way Mount Rushmore does. Since its completion in 1941, it has joined the Statue of Liberty and the Stars & Stripes as one of America’s most inspiring symbols of democracy. The Memorial, located 23 miles southwest of Rapid City, is awesome and impressive.
Badlands National Park
The Lakota gave this land its name, “mako sica,” meaning “land bad.” Located in southwestern South Dakota, Badlands National Park consists of 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires blended with the largest protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. It is desolation at its truest, where you can look for miles and see no sign of civilization.
Devils Tower National Monument
Devils Tower National Monument, a unique and striking geologic wonder steeped in Indian legend, is a modern day national park and climbers' challenge. Devils Tower sits across the state line in northeast Wyoming. The Tower is a solitary, stump-shaped granite formation that looms 1,267 feet above the tree-lined Belle Fourche River Valley, like a skyscraper in the country.
Jewel Cave National Monument
Beneath the Black Hills of South Dakota is the intriguing underground world of Jewel Cave. With 141 miles of explored passageways, Jewel Cave ranks as the second longest cave in the world. The cave was discovered at the turn of the century by brothers passing through Hell Canyon. On February 7, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the site a national monument.
Wind Cave National Park
The Wind Cave area has been protected since 1903, when it was declared as a national park by Theodore Roosevelt. Thought to be one of the world’s oldest caves and regarded as sacred by American Indians, cave exploration did not begin here until 1881, when the entrance was noticed by two brothers, Jesse and Tom Bingham.
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is one of the nation’s newest national park areas. The park was established by Congress in 1999 and consists of a nuclear missile silo and launch control facility. From this seemingly isolated patch of midwestern prairie, United States Air Force officers could have launched intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) at targets in the Soviet Union.