In September 2001, we departed Montana and drove to the Dakotas, intending to visit the Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore, and the Badlands. However we woke up on Sept. 11th in North Dakota to find the twin towers in NYC burning and later collapsing. Mt. Rushmore was one of many National Parks that were temporarily closed, so we changed our travel plans and headed back to the Midwest. Now five years later, we find ourselves driving two-days from Missouri to South Dakota, returning to visit those missed sites. Our first stop was the Badlands National Park. We stayed at a nice little KOA campground at the entrance to the park. The park served great Indian Tacos made with Fry Bread, so we had a great dinner.


Badlands Exploration

We had time for one full day in the park. After stopping at the Ben Reifel Visitor's Center, then took several hikes.

Our first stop was the Cliff Shelf Nature trail. We followed the trail guide brochure and enjoyed the quick warm-up hike.

Our next stop was a hiking area with four very short trails: Door, Notch, Saddle Pass, and Window.



The Notch trail was the most fun. After a short walk through a canyon, you climb up a steep ladder made of logs emerging at the top of the cliff. We had fun watching a family climb down before we climbed up.

The signs said to look for rattlesnakes, but we never say signs of any snakes.


Next we walked along the cliff show above. You can see the ladder in the center of the photo. They moved the trail at one point where it gets very close to a steep drop off. Annette was a little nervous, but found the courage to stand next to the dropoff and the sign.

badlands cliffs

Annette drawing

The badlands feel like another world. They reminded us of movies set on Mars or some other planet. Although we say few animals, there were lots of birds around.

Scenic Drive

After our hikes, we began our drive down the scenic highway.

One of the most interesting things about the badlands is the contrast between the desolate white, orange, and red rock against the open green grasslands.


Bighorn Sheep

At one point along the drive we saw a few cars pulled off the side of the road. Everyone was pointing and it didn't take us long to see the bighorn sheep on the hill.

Badlands sheep

The sheep below is wearing a park collar so it can be tracked. This sheep stood up and leisurely watched across the road, down steep the canyon, and back up the hill to join the others.



BighornThe highlight of our sheep viewing was watching the babies play. There appeared to be at least two sets of twins. Watch the bighorn babies movie. Also check out a longer movie.



wall drug

Wall Drug

After our bighorn sheep encounter, we took a sidetrip to the north to visit Wall Drug in the town of Wall, South Dakota. We enjoyed lunch and spent some time exploring the shops and exhibits. Annette remembered visiting Wall Drug on her vacation from Iowa back in the early 1970s.

We spent way too much money on books at the unique bookstore in the Wall Drug Store complex.

Wall Drug

We've been noticing how quickly the grain elevators are disappearing from the landscapes of small towns. Larry has been photographing grain elevators as we pass through rural areas. The one above is down the street from Wall Drug.


Scenic Drive

After lunch, we headed back to the scenic drive in the park. We saw a coyote walking along the rim of the canyon and decide to stop for a walk through the prairie grass.


prairie dog

As we continued down the road, we drove through a number of prairie dog towns. We've always enjoyed photographing these cute animals because they always strike fun poses for the camera.

prairie dogprairie dog

prairie dog

Although these adorable creatures aren't the friends of farmers and gardeners, they're popular attractions at the park.


We saw lots of American bison on the backroad before entering the the highway back to the RV park.

After a long day we decided another KOA Indian Taco would be a great supper.

Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 6/06.