Imagine viewing a land where sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires are blended with the largest, protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. This extraordinary region is the Badlands, located in southwestern South Dakota, just 70 miles east of Rapid City.
The best of these savagely beautiful badlands comprise the Badlands National Park, a unique region so ruthlessly ravaged by wind and water that has become a scenic wonderland. Most of the park is bordered by Buffalo Gap National Grassland, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and private lands, primarily ranches and farms. The entire park is comprised of 242,756 acres, 64,144 acres of which have been designated as Wilderness. The South Unit, which includes the Palmer Creek Unit, consists of 133,300 acres.
This particular area is also home to the Oglala Lakota Sioux. Today the Great Sioux Reservation, Pine Ridge, consists of 3,468.86 sq mi of land area and is the eighth-largest reservation in the United States, larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. This vast region was once home to the mysterious and little-studied paleo-Indians who are thought to be some of the first inhabitants of the Badlands region.
The Badlands have the most significant mixed-grass prairie, the best known Oligocene fossil resources in the world, and the area is filled with remnants of sea and turtle shells, leading proof this area was once under water.