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8/21/19 to 8/24/19 Badlands / White River KOA; Interior SD

Campground: Site 17; Pull Thru; Full Hookup; NO Verizon cell coverage; minimal AT&T LTE; Laundry; Sites were adequate in size; Three different families from Massachusetts were there. Terrible mosquitos! They were having a wetter than average year and the mosquitos were constant. The KOA is in a valley of the White River so cell coverage ends as you get into the campground. There was better coverage in the Badlands.

The “town” of Interior was a tiny market with gas pumps. The change/gallon price was not listed on the pumps, so we got a bit of a shock. Not too surprising though. Better gas option is to go 10 miles north on 377 to the junction of I-90.

Badlands: The park is divided into north and south units. The southern unit has very limited access and there are warnings about “unexploded ordinances” in the area that can be triggered by a cell phone. Apparently the area was used as target practice by the military. We kept to the north unit.

I'm going to let the photos speak, but we were very surprised by the Badlands. It IS a VERY strange place. And beautiful.

The Badlands are basically two plateaus at different elevations. The transition between them is called “the Wall”. It is a wide swath of spires, cliffs, and ravines in whimsical depositions.

I took the following photo from the Black Hills about 60 miles away (600mm lens) where the Wall is apparent. The native people called the Badlands the White Hills for obvious reasons. What is not obvious is that those cliffs are not mountains, but the edge of a point of erosion from a higher level of plains to the lower level visible in the foreground.

The spires look remarkably like a child's sandcastles where dripping wet sand is piled up into a tall peak. The whole thing is being created through erosion and the wall is receding into the high plain. The unfathomable thing is how some of the peaks are much higher than the high plain.

On the high plain looking toward the wall.

Looking down to the lower plain.

A loop road takes you from the Visitor Center along the lower plain where you can look up at the odd formations, and then rises through a pass that brings you up to the upper plain. From here you look into the canyons, see some peaks rising above you, and can look beyond to the endless and flat lower plain. Along the way there are bison and big horn sheep.

Bison on the high plain

Beware of Bison!

This guy liked to lick that stake.

Getting in a good scratch.

Many of the bighorn's were tagged and tracked.

The afternoon light makes a big difference in the colors and the photos!


There are a few hiking tails that are mostly easy and short. The difficult part is the heat as they are generally in the open sun. I got to take one solo bushwhacking hike through a dry wash that was exciting (see below). While I set out to find fossils, I ended up finding deer and many tracks including a bobcat.

Cliff Shelf Nature Trail and "Beware of Rattlesnakes" sign.

The Door Trail is easy but it was scorching hot! Walk over somewhat flat terrain to get to some nice views.

Here are the photos I took from my hike up the dry creek bed going into the canyons of the wall.

This toad hopped into the smallest little water hole. I thought I was watching one of those nature shows that show how much life is in the desert.

Around this and another spot of muddy water were countless deer tracks.

And then I saw this print of a cat. I'm thinking Bobcat and I started to watch around every corner. For that and the countless rattlesnake warning signs in other areas of the park.

A cavern is forming

Just one odd spot of layered soil.

The trail narrows as I went. Some places I had to duck under the rocks or climb over the bar.

I turned around at this point.

Out of all the MANY faces and shapes I point out in rocks and sticks and fruit, his has GOT to be the BEST!

I didn't see any activity in these nests.

Saddle Pass Trail: Goes up front he loop road on the lower prairie. It is a 1/4 mile pretty steeply up the face of the wall. The views from the top were great.

Halfway up

I love this photo. The effects of millions of years of erosion is evident right in front of you - especially the two seemingly different levels of the base plain.

Looking at the lower plain from the top.

Turning around looking north at the high plain.

The view east from the top.

One family (yes two small kids) decided to hike that peak. I try not to look.

Last afternoon at the park:


The Visitor Center had an exceptional paleontology exhibit. Visitors are helping discover fossils all the time. A wall was covered with photos of people with their finds on one wall in the center.

A park employee (paleontologist?) was describing how he had recently found a kind of prehistoric dog bone in an older layer of earth than previously known and that it will change the family tree of the dog!

Minuteman Missile Visitor Center. On the north side o fRt 240 and I-90 is a fantastic display and one of the better (if not best) short films we've seen in a national park. Go there to learn about the birth of the Minuteman program and how close we came to global annihilation several times! There is a great tiem line model showing historical events along side the numbers of nuclear missiles held by the Soviet Union/Russia and the USA.

On the road again....

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