History of Badlands National Park

History of Badlands National Park

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 east of Rapid City. The best of these savagely beautiful badlands comprises the 244,000 acres of Badlands National Park, a unique region so ruthlessly ravaged by wind and water that has become a scenic wonderland. The badlands region sprawls over 10,000 square miles of vast prairies and grasslands, amidst the chiseled spire landscape and rugged pinnacles. Explore this picturesque region of South Dakota that few see. Guests can enjoy some of the most amazing sunsets anywhere in the U.S. or to view the millions of stars at night.

The best views of the most dramatic badlands formations are from the spectacular overlooks along the Badlands Loop Road. This road was recently designated a State Scenic Byway, in Badlands National Park. Wear comfortable shoes for walking the nature trails and you'll be amazed at the awesome formations you'll see along the trails. Whether an individual excursion or a group adventure, beautiful Badlands National Park is accessible to all who wish to experience it. Solitude and nature await in the Badlands, to invigorate your senses and revitalize your soul.


Archaeological sites in the Badlands date back over 12,000 years ago. There have been over 300 sites recovered within Badlands National Park which could possibly be from camps from past travelers, ancient campfires and prehistoric butchering locations. While there was no sign of permanent habitation within the park, archaeologists found early sites belonging to a culture known as “Plains Archaic” as well as more recent sites belonging to Arikara and Oglala Lakota tribes’ sites.

The Badlands are also known worldwide to have the most significant mixed-grass prairie, the best-known Oligocene fossil resources, and remnants of sea and turtle shells, leading proof this area was once under water. Paleontologists and many institutions continually study this region, giving insight to life of 33 million years ago.

The western prairie comes alive with the indigenous prairie dogs, bald eagles, antelope and bison roaming throughout the badlands region. You may even see a black-footed ferret, the most endangered land mammal in North America that is being reintroduced in the 64,000 acres of Badlands Wilderness Area. In 2003, the swift fox was reintroduced to Badlands National Park.