SOUTH DAKOTA (Part Two) The Badlands and MT Rushmore

Anyone who thinks that a prairie is “void of life” or is “boring” has never spent time in western South Dakota.    I Just love the tall-grass prairie and the abundant wildlife that lives there.

Alan and I recently returned from a trip to beautiful western South Dakota.  We had traveled through there nine years ago on our way to the Yellowstone National Park area.  But on that particular trip, South Dakota was a mere “pass through” to our final destination.  Unexpectedly, we both fell so in love with the Black Hills and Badlands area that we vowed to one day return, with this area as the final destination.   It took almost a decade, but finally, we made that trip.   And it was more than worth the wait!

Our real reason for going on this trip was for me to study the wildlife of Custer State Park in the Black Hills.  But of course one cannot simply zip down a highway and roll right past beautiful Badlands National Park.  I will do another blog entry (above) on our findings in Custer State Park a bit later.  In this entry I will feature the beautiful Badlands.

For anyone who hasn’t been, the Badlands are an area of jagged buttes and spires and deep canyons caused by millions of years of wind and water erosion.   This area contains one of the richest fossil beds in the world.  The winds of the great prairie have exposed the rock in rich layers of color almost like a multi-layer cake that spans for several miles across the rolling tall-grass prairie.    Heavy rains this year have turned the vast grassland into brilliant shades of green cloaked with the yellow blooms of summer flowers.   Contrasted against the orange rock and bright blue sky, this beautiful land is a feast for the senses.

(Below) one of many amazing views across the Badlands.


One of the only things this baby bunny really has to fear here is the wrath of a rattle snake.  Keeping an eye on the sky is not a bad idea either.  Raptors quite like the taste of rabbit.   But for now, with human visitors around, he is safe and seems to know it.


Another amazing vista…


Badgers love the open prairie.  They dig huge dens in loose soil.  These animals are famous for their tenacious, raspy personalities.  I would not want to upset one of these!


Modern technology is mind blowing.  While viewing the beautiful scenery out in the middle of nowhere, our good friend and dog sitter (“Sitter Susan”) called with a report on our dogs.   “They are being angels.”     That was good to know and nice to hear and Alan looks really happy about that.   I guess that one is never really out of touch these days!


(Below) One of my favorite birds, the Meadowlark.  This is the state bird of Kansas (and Wyoming too, I believe).  They LOVE the open grassland and can be found in great abundance here.


And of course one cannot ever do a piece on the prairie and not include its most famous resident, the Prairie Dog.   Although considered vermin in areas populated by humans, they sure are funny and cute!   They are prolific breeders which is why they are considered a nuisance.    There were once countless billions of prairie dogs in the western half of the US.  Now they continue to thrive in wild areas like this one.


(Below) On to the black hills.  This old rock road tunnel perfectly frames the four famous faces of beautiful MT. Rushmore.


A better look at those famous faces of stone.  What an amazing feat this was to conceptualize, create and maintain.  It is truly a one of a kind landmark.