If the road conditions allow and you feel adventurous, you can take the gravel Sage Creek Road west to the Roberts Prairie Dog Town. These cute little diggers spend most of their time barking out warnings to their neighbors. They share their underground home with the burrowing owl and the recently reintroduced black footed ferret, which is an endangered species. Patient observation at the town may be rewarded by seeing the elusive ferret.
Badlands National Park is also home to a herd of free ranging Bison. Once these mammoth beasts ranged across the entire western US prairie in the hundreds of thousands, but the wild population of South Dakota is now generally concentrated in Badlands National Park, and Custer State Park in the Black Hills. Although Bison appear to be docile, and slow, they are dangerous, unpredictable creatures. You should keep at least 75 feet from a bison at all times. Bison can run at over 30 mph, and every year visitors are severely injured and killed by bison while visiting National Parks. If a bison looks at you and snorts, and raises it's tail, it is telling you it does not like how close you are. You need to pay attention to these creatures.
The park service has a difficult time convincing these 2,000 pound animals to stay in the park. They are agile, capable of jumping ranch fences, and if they can't jump through them, the strong bison will just knock it down. The service tries to encourage the bison to stay by providing them with supplemental food and water. Some bison are moved to other parks as part of a reintroduction program.
The only other dangerous creature in Badlands National Park is the prairie rattlesnake, which is also the only poisonous snake found in South Dakota. Rattlesnakes are cold blood animals and will tend to be in the open at the start and the end of the day, and will tend to look for a cool place to hide during the heat of the day. Be careful not to place your hands where you can not see them, and never put your hands in a prairie dog hole as the rattlesnakes love to search through this underground buffet for their next meal. Poison ivy is also located in the park. Poison ivy leaves come in bunches of threes, and a sample of what it look likes can be found at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center.
Badlands National Park is at the eastern most edge of a National Park service rich area. Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, and Devil's Tower National Monument, are all less than a days drive away. South Dakota's famed Custer State Park with it's 18 mile Wildlife Loop Road is also less than a day drive away. No visit to Badlands National Park is complete without a visit to Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota.
Wall Drug was made famous during the great depression for it's 5 cent cup of coffee and free ice water. The water is still free, and the coffee is still 5 cents in this incredible tourist stop. Over 500 signs are located on South Dakota highways pointing the way to Wall. This "drug store" quite literally was everything you could want, and is a good place to get a t-shirt. It is located in the heart of Wall which provides a number of dining and lodging opportunities in this unique South Dakota town. If you do go to Wall Drug, make sure to see their Tyrannosaurs Rex in what they call, "the backyard," which is a great reward for the kids if you take them for a long day of hiking on the trail.
No trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota is complete without seeing Badlands National Park. Even if you are traveling cross country on Interstate 90, the 45 minute diversion of taking the 19 mile Park Loop Road is well worth the spectacular views you will see, and it gives you a good excuse to visit Wall Drug on the way.
Just The Plain Facts About Badlands National Park...