Visiting 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.
This land of sharp ridges, steep walled canyons, gullies, pyramids and knobs has been so ruthlessly ravaged by wind and water that it has become picturesque. The Badlands are a wonderland of bizarre, colorful spires and pinnacles, massive buttes and deep gorges. Erosion of the Badlands reveals sedimentary layers of different colors: purple and yellow (shale), tan and gray (sand and gravel), red and orange (iron oxides) and white (volcanic ash).
Badlands National Park also preserves the world’s greatest fossil beds of animals from the Oligocene Epoch of the Age of Mammals. The skeletons of ancient camels, three-toed horses, saber-toothed cats and giant rhinoceros-like creatures are among the many fossilized species found here. All fossils, rocks, plants and animals are protected and must remain where you find them. Prehistoric bones are still being uncovered today by park officials.
Come enjoy this park’s biological diversity. The Badlands are home to the largest mixed grass prairie in the National Park System and is surrounded by the Buffalo Gap National Grassland. Wildlife roams the park's boundaries as well. Bison, pronghorn, mule and whitetail deer, prairie dogs, coyotes, butterflies, turtles, snakes, bluebirds, vultures, eagles and hawks are just some of the wildlife that can often be seen by visitors. In 1994 the near-extinct Black-footed ferrets were reintroduced into the Badlands prairie. These nocturnal animals are rarely seen by the visiting public.
Badlands National Park Fees, Facilities & Programs
Badlands National Park is open year-round. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. A seven day pass is $15 per carload or $7 for an individual (hiking or bicycling) $10 for motorcycles.. An annual pass is $30. Commercial vehicle rates vary according to size of the vehicle. Entrance fee are collected year- round.
What You Should Know When Visiting Badlands National Park
The Badlands offer a unique national park opportunity. Please protect your park so it is enjoyable for everyone.
Badlands National Park Paleontology
About 75 million years ago a shallow sea covered the Great Plains region. In today’s Badlands the bottom of that sea appears as a grayish-black sedimentary rock called Pierre (peer) shale. This layer is a rich source of fossils.
Explore the South Unit of Badlands National Park
About 50% of Badlands National Park is co-managed with the Oglala Lakota Nation, the second largest American Indian Reservation in the United States. For further information about the Oglala Lakota Nation, visit Oglala Sioux Tribe.