Designated as a national monument in 1929 and not redesignated as a national park until November 10, 1978, the Badlands has one of the more interesting park names.  Once you’ve seen it, you can understand why the Lakota Sioux Indians called it Mako Sica, which has been translated as “land bad” and as “eroded land.”  French fur trappers called it  “les mauvaises terres a traverser” or  “bad lands to traverse.”  Of course, with modern roads, albeit winding ones, the trip is much easier, one anyone who has the chance should take.  But if you’re hiking, take lots of water, wear suntan lotion and a hat, and stay on the trails.

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Yellow Mounds Overlook

The day I arrived about noon at the entrance to the park was the day of the solar eclipse.  I didn’t have glasses, but I must have been the only one who didn’t.  There were hundreds of people walking, standing, sitting, or lying everywhere, gazing at the sun.  With my husband’s repeated warnings to all of us to “Don’t look at the sun!” ringing in my ears (and valuing my sight too much), I resolutely looked at the land formations.  One kind woman loaned me her glasses for a quick look when the sun was almost covered.  A positive thing was that most people weren’t driving, so the road through the park was relatively untraveled during that time span.  🙂

I purposefully didn’t adjust anything on these photo so you could see how the light muddied the colors of the land as well as the sky.  You’re seeing exactly what I saw.

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The Badlands contains one of the richest fossil beds in the word, fossils of ancient animals such as horses, camel, and rhinoceroses, as well as seashells and sea creatures.  The Lakota found fossils here before white people arrived on the scene.  Whether you think these fossils and layers of earth were formed millions of years ago or during a world-wide flood, this is a prime area for them.

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The park’s almost 244,000 acres are half on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, that half co-managed with the Oglala Sioux Tribe.  The Badlands Wilderness Area covers  over 64,000 acres as was the site for reintroduction of bison.  Live Science points out the difference between what most people call buffalo and true buffalo.  All clear now?  🙂

The American bison (Bison bison) lives only in North America, while the two main buffalo species reside in Africa and Asia. A small population of bison relatives called the European bison (Bison bonasus) lives in isolated parts of Poland.

Unfortunately, there were no Bison bison or any other animals around during this visit, although I did spot an eagle and some other birds.

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Enough background.  Just sit back and relax while I drive.  We’ll stop often because you have to get out and take time to look in all directions while marveling at the formations.  We have plenty of water (and snacks, if you get hungry) and lots of time.

copyright janet m. webb


  1. Emma Cownie says:

    Such a great name “Badlands”. Just yells American West! Wonderfully arid landscape. I have seen Asian Buffalo and they look very different to the North American Bison. The Polish Bison I have not seen but I believe they live in the ancient forest of Białowieża in Poland. Sadly the Polish government is allowing commercial logging in this ancient and unique landscape.

    • Emma, there’s a certain kind of beauty in this type of landscape as there is in the desert. Asian buffalo do look very different, don’t they. I’m sorry to read about the logging in the Polish forest.


      • Emma Cownie says:

        Me too. There has been a big campaign against it and the EU has tried to stop it but the Polish government wants to let it go ahead. So short-sighted!

  2. dweezer19 says:

    While beautiful at night, I have never been a fan of barren and dessert areas. I appreciate the beauty but must have had a bad experience in another life. 😏Beautiful images though.

  3. Dan Antion says:

    This is such an interesting part of our country. I hope to see this in person at some point, but I’m enjoying this view. Thanks for sharing, Janet.

  4. Thanks for the ride, view, and the explanations. I enjoyed them all.

  5. Suzanne says:

    That was great. I have always wondered what the Badlands are. Seeing them on the day of the eclipse must have been quite eerie.

  6. Such beautiful and majestic landscapes Janet! I’ve not been to the Badlands since the mid 80’s.
    I hope to get back one day. I’ve always called them Buffalo, but in recent years have started calling them Buffalo Bison. 🙂 One day I’ll make up mind.

  7. Thanks for the tour that shows the sweeping vistas and weathering. Stunning is still a descriptor.

  8. marianallen says:

    The Badlands is (are?) amazingly beautiful. Seeing it (them?) is a treasured memory. Photos can’t really do justice to the sight, but yours come closer than any I’ve seen.

  9. restlessjo says:

    I do like having a chauffeur 🙂 🙂

  10. So stunning, yet so desolate – like another planet…. I’m glad there was a kind person who loaned you her glasses, mainly because it/she/your story illustrates that there are thoughtful people on the planet!

  11. Thanks for the tour! This one place I’ve been wanting to visit. These photos are stunning.

  12. JANE says:

    Janet, I think the color in the photos is outstanding. How impressive to have your photo shoot on the day of the eclipse… there will be few photos like these. Unique exposures for a unique landscape. Very nice!!

    • I don’t know how many people were taking photo of anything other than the eclipse, Jane. Most were staring at the sun the entire time I observed them. I haven’t even gotten the photos off my Nikon yet to see how they turned out. These are all from my iPhone, which was on its last legs battery-wise, so I was being very careful not to fun out. 🙂

  13. Joanne Sisco says:

    There’s something both compelling and a bit frightening about such a stark environment. I imagine the muted lighting from the solar eclipse added to its ethereal quality. Great photos, Janet.

  14. VioletSky says:

    There is something so very eerie about this scenery – and the fact that you saw no wildlife only accentuates the eeriness!

  15. iAMsafari says:

    High, very high on our list. Did you visit Pine Ridge Rez?

  16. Great set, all three of them on Badlands.