Badlands of South Dakota are Breathtaking But So Are The Amazing Wooly Mammoths
badlands of south Dakota

Badlands National Park doesn’t disappoint!

Heading to the Badlands of South Dakota! So very exciting. I am not sure what to expect.
Then just  15 minutes out of Sioux Falls, we have another rock hit the windshield. And a crack forms. Wow, we just finished getting the last one repaired. Well, this one will have to wait since we have places to go and wildlife to see.

Meeting our first fellow Atlas owners

badlands of South dakota

As we pull into New Frontier Campground in Presho, SD, there is another Atlas!

We keep thinking we will see another Atlas on the road, but we never expect to stay overnight in an RV park with one. Near the Badlands of South Dakota, no less.

We meet Scott & Troy and their golden retriever at New Frontier Campground in Presho, SD. It turns out they are a member of our Facebook Airstream Atlas group so we feel like we already know them. Trading tips of outfitting the Atlas, we pick up some great ideas.

The best one? The radio in the Atlas is absolutely terrible & always sounds like it is coming out of a tin can. Turns out if you disconnect a purple wire on the middle speaker, you will only get sound out of the side speakers.  And now the radio sounds like a stereo. makes a world of difference. Who knew! Thank you Scott & Troy!

The Badlands of South Dakota live up to their reputation

badlans of south dakota

The Badlands live up to their reputation. Hot, dry & rocky!

With 2 loops through Badlands National Park, we choose the northern loop. And we get in free. Whoo-hoo. Dale’s veteran status pays off as all military vets get into national parks for no charge.

The National Park has some great walkways with numerous interpretive signs. But first, how did it get it’s name?

It turns out the term badlands means a barren land where the erosion of the rock formations is severe. The Badlands of South Dakota are actually eroding at one inch a year. So in 500,000 years, they will be gone!

And there are badlands on every continent except Antarctica. Even the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah and the Painted Desert in Arizona are considered badlands. Very cool.

 A fun read with some gorgeous photos is Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Badlands National Park. Now, if I could just take pictures like the ones in the article!


And don’t forget the Fossil Lab!

badlands of South Dakota

We watch Mary, a paleontologist, prepare a saber tooth cat fossil

As luck would have it, the Fossil Lab at the Visitor Center is open for just a few more days before closing for the season. We meet Mary & Lex who are cleaning fossils.

When Mary hears Dale is a stone sculptor, she starts getting out all of her tools to show Dale. Pneumatic chisels and air drills and all sorts of things. They compare notes and Dale learns about several tools that might save him a ton of time when he is doing the painstaking fine detail on his sculptures.

Meanwhile, the other visitors are looking on with amused looks on their faces. Who are these 2 crazy people getting excited over a tiny drill?

badlands of South Dakota

Mary shows Dale some of her drills


Next up? Prairie Dogs in Custer State Park

badlands of South Dakota

Prairie dogs are everywhere in both the Badlands of South Dakota & Custer State Park

One of my main goals is to see prairie dogs. And we see some in both the Badlands & Custer National Park, but not as many as I hoped.

These cool critters, which are part of the squirrel family, only mate once a year, unlike many other rodents. And the female is only receptive to mating for one hour, in a whole year!

With sharp teeth and claws, they are strong little fighters. One of their biggest predators is the endangered black-footed ferret. But their worst enemy? The bubonic plague. Really? An entire colony can be wiped out quickly by the plague.

More wildlife

badlands of south dakota

Elk graze on the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park.

Wild bison and elk are everywhere you look. Some are in the road, many are on distant hills and some are content to graze in the middle of RV parks!

We are driving the 18-mile Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park with virtually no traffic. As we round a curve, there are cars stopped with donkeys next to all the vehicles. What is going on? We have apparently just met the begging wild burritos who beg for food as cars approach. While not native, they are fun to watch especially the baby kicking up it’s heals. 



One of the begging burritos plays with it’s mama

The largest wooly mammoth dig in the world

wooly mammoth site

Look at the size of the wooly mammoth!

Suggested by a friend, we visited the Wooly Mammoth Site, the largest research center for wooly mammoths in the world. The site was discovered in the early ’70s while excavating for a housing development.

The owner had the foresight to realize this particular site was way more important to preserve than develop. Yea for him!

What did paleontologists discover?  But first, do you know the difference between an archaeologist & a paleontologist? We didn’t.  Paleontology studies animal fossils and archaeology studies human activity. Ahh.

The area was once a giant sinkhole. The wooly mammoths would get in the cooling waters accumulated in the sinkhole and then not be able to get up the slippery sides. To date, 61 wooly mammoths have been identified along with bears, prairie dogs and numerous other animals.

And the cool part is you see the actual dig all enclosed by a giant educational building. So much to learn…

wooly mammoth site

You can clearly see the wooly mammoth tusks being excavated

And how is Gibbs?


Gibbs is staying warm and trying to avoid eye contact so he doesn’t have to go on a walk.

One of Gibbs least favorite things to do is go for a walk. But with all the new, interesting smells, he seems to be enjoying his outdoor forays with more gusto.

Except when it is really cold. Then he would rather stay inside snuggled up in a blanket with his favorite toy, Mrs. Beaver.

Next stop? Yellowstone. A lifelong dream about to come true…