When I was in college, I had to take what I liked to call a “dirt class.” I was very quickly directed to never say dirt, but rather soil (thus the very appropriate title - Soil Science 334). Throughout the semester, the class was introduced to the properties of soil, how soil is classified and soil resource issues. While maybe not the most thrilling topics for conversation, the class has crossed my mind often while traveling to different parks. A lot of this has to do with learning about the different layering in rocks and soils. This layering is frequently visible when hiking or driving through parks. We often see layers in the rocks that show evidence of water levels and varying aspects of nature, including deposition and erosion. Insert Badlands National Park.
Welcome To The Badlands!
This beautiful National Park is the result of years and years of deposition and erosion. This process is not something that took place over hundreds of years, but millions. Each layer represents a different formation created from the deposit of sand, silt and clay. Based on which sediments are deposited throughout the majority of a formation, you can gain a better understanding on the history of the foundations and area. Looking out into the layers of large rock formations doesn’t always give the illusion of a large flowing river, however years ago the Cheyenne River flew through and began eroding the region.
Many, Many Layers
Due to erosion, it is believed the formations within Badlands will be completely worn in another 500,000 years. This means the beautiful geological formations are short-lived in rock-years and makes the National Park that much more precious to current day visitors.
Badlands National Park
Driving through Badlands National Park will give you all the amazing views the park has to offer. We stopped at a few overlooks including Big Badlands Overlook and Bigfoot Pass Overlook. Both have stunning views and are easily accessible. Driving through the main road will give you access to all overlook points and an opportunity to get on foot and walk through the formations themselves.
Such Unique Beauty
Door Trail was by far one of our favorite experiences in a park, because it makes you feel like a true explorer. Door Trail received its name because it essentially provided a break in the wall of formations to create a “door” to view the park. When you reach the end of the boardwalk trail, you can then go explore on your own. The “trail” is following along with the top of the rock formations as far as you feel comfortable. The walkway is wide enough and you can remain close to the boardwalk. We had a blast walking through here while looking at the view and taking photographs. I even convinced Colin to take a few boomerangs of me jumping (a difficult task when he doesn’t always trust my grace and stability).
Kayla's Default Adventure Photo
And Of Course, A Boomerang!
As you can see, the views are simply beautiful. We were visiting the park in early November and the weather could not have been more perfect. The sun was out, as it usually is, and the breeze and temperature were perfect for walking around. We ventured to Fossil Exhibit Trail after our adventures at Door Trail. While we were expecting there to be a few more “obvious” fossils visible, the path has a beautiful view and information on fossils. We started driving over to our next stop, Pinnacles Overlook, when we came across a friend...
Just Another Day In The Badlands
There are plenty of signs to let you know to keep an eye out for Big Horn Sheep, however we still had to let out a little laugh when we say this guy wandering around so casually on paved roadway. The Badlands gave us views of quite a few animals, including one of my favorites, black-tailed prairie dogs. I was more than excited when I saw there was a “Prairie Wind Overlook” stop and I couldn’t wait to see. While you are observing the rock formations throughout the beginning portion of the park (starting point being Ben Reifel Visitor Center) it is somewhat hard to imagine a grassland area in the park. But, in fact, Badlands National Park holds one of the largest expanses of mixed grass prairie within the National Park system.
Prairie Dog Central!
**Be sure to have your sound on so you can hear the cute noises these tiny mammals make.
Even if you are short on time for a visit to this park, we would recommend still driving through. The rock formations are close to the road and you can experience much of the beauty just by driving by. Our other tidbit of information is to check for bathrooms before heading into the park. A few of the stops have them, as indicated on the park map, however after drinking so much water, it is important to always know your bathroom route. We ended up backtracking for a few miles after realizing the nearest bathroom was quite a few miles ahead of us and we wanted to hike in-between.
Following our route through the park was a great way to observe the beauty of what was once a flowing river, all the way to a view full of grass and talking creatures. We enjoyed getting to explore on our own and create memories full of laughter and long romantic walks with Big Horn Sheep.