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Day 11 (9.12.07) - Badlands NP to Ft Pierre (Video Added)

Lots and Lots of Badlands and an 1880's Frontier Town

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Starting Mileage: 111700, Badlands NP SD
Ending Mileage: 111853, Ft Pierre SD
Weather: Sunny & Warm, 86 F

When we got up at Sage Creek Campground, it was no longer windy, so we hiked 1/2 mile or so to Sage Creek (Mom decided to wait on a log a short way into the hike, which was fine as long as there were no Rattlesnakes under it). When I got to Sage Creek, there was a very large Bison eating a couple hundred feet up the creek. I could hear others, but they were out of sight in the washes. We also saw another Bison on a ridge as we left the campground.

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The horse campers I met yesterday too off on their mounts for a much longer ride into the wilderness. They only take day rides this time of year since it can get cold at night, but they say they like covering the longer distances they can by riding (besides, I think they just like riding their horses).

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As we left the campground, we noticed a large prairie dog town at the edge of the road called "Roberts Prairie Dog Town". The grass was chewed down all around the prairie dog town, so you could easily see where it was vs the rest of the plains.

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As we headed on up the (still gravel) road, we began to see more and more vista's of the badlands to our right, while still seeing grassland and prairie to our left. We also saw more and more overlooks (turnouts in the road) - I think I probably stopped at every one. A few vultures took advantage of the updrafts from the eroded cliffs and bluffs that make up the badlands and soared overhead. At one point, there were two Bison in the grassland that decided it was time for their morning bath I think. The took turns laying down in a dirt spot and rolling around - I couldn't resist trying to video tape this, but didn't have time to get the tripod out, so will have to upload it as an unsteady, but interesting spectacle.

As we got deeper and deeper into the Badlands NP itself, we continued to see some flat grasslands on top of eroded bluffs or down in between erosion zones. Once we also saw Bison on a grassy area in the midst of eroded badlands. Mom was especially surprised by this as she had imagined the Badlands to be much more devoid of life.

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One of the places you could pull off was for a 'Fossil Walk'. Scientists have found over 250 species of fossils in this area of the Badlands. The Park Service has built a raised walkway for visitors to tour some of the sites, but protected the fossils in boxes with viewing lids. It was all quite interesting and a very easy (level) walk.

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Later at the Visitors Center, we learned that geologists think the Badlands themselves are a relatively new land form. They are eroding very fast in geological terms, much faster than area's such as the Black Hills. Although there is very little water here, the government did try to encourage people to homestead the area. Most claims failed due to the harsh conditions (& lack of water), and many became known as 'starvation claims'. As we got deeper and deeper into the Badlands National Park, we began to see more vista's like what we expected. However, these cover a relatively small portion of the entire park and an even smaller portion of South Dakota:

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I did also spot this fellow near the visitors center (warning, I stop for just about everything):

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Finally leaving the Badlands, we started back towards the I90 Freeway. Along the way was a Homestead set up on the National Historic Register. While we had mixed feelings about how much time we are taking on the trip, Mom noticed the 'soddie' and wanted to make sure I got a picture of it. So I went ahead and paid the entrance fee and went through the homestead (mom was tired, so waited in the RV - but I took lots of pictures of course and described it to her). It was interesting. Even several miles away from the Badlands, water was always a problem. During bad times, this homestead had a well that could only produce a few buckets of water a day. Many of their neighbors wells just went dry, so I guess they were lucky. They also had the distinction of having white prairie dogs! In spite of the hardships though, the people who lived here loved their life on the prairie very much. When the husband, Edgar Brown, died his widow stayed on until she finally had to move in with her son in California. She continued to tell people how much she missed the homestead and her friends in South Dakota however.

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We pulled over just before getting on the freeway to get gas. Right next to the gas station was a visitors center for the Minuteman Missle Silo National Park (but the Silo was 18 miles in the wrong direction and about to close for the day, so I just visited the visitors center briefly).

Finally heading East again on I90 we thought we were really flying and finally making some time. Lo and Behold I90 is filled with sights for vacationers (if an exit every 20 to 40 miles qualifies as 'filled'). We ignored most offers, but I got sucked in (?) with advertisements for an 1880's town. Actually, this turned out to be very well done and quite interesting. I don't think they are quite as far along as the one in Cashmere, but in some ways it's even better (they didn't have an irrigated lawn for example, there is also an outhouse behind virtually every building.) Quite a neat place...

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I took a lot of pictures, but will include just the school exterior & interior here (I plan to include a blog entry just for particular sights like this one under Photographs later):

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They also have some of the props and sets from Dances with Wolves movie.

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Eventually we turned off on Hwy 83 North to head up to Pierre, hoping to visit my sister Penny again near the North Dakota border the next day. (I actually passed up an Automobile Museum at a later exit, although I was tempted). As we drove on Hwy 83 North, we kept seeing larger birds walking onto the side of the highway (and an occasional road kill). They took off every time we tried to pull over to photograph them, but I think we caught a few. We thought at first they were prairie hens, but they almost looked more like pheasants. We found out later that they were female pheasants, which are quite plentiful in this area and do like to walk out on the roadway for the gravel (and often do get hit).

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As we drove through the small town of Fort Pierre, which is just before Pierre, S.D., we saw a sign for a City Park with camping. We decided to stay there for the night. This was right on the Missouri River and a lovely spot - quite a few bug though! It is by the mouth of the Bad River, right where it runs into the Missouri. It also turns out that this is the same spot where Lewis & Clark camped for five days in October 1804 - trying to negotiate a treaty with the Lakota Sioux. They were not successful in getting the treaty, but had some feasting and such during their time here.

Fort Pierre also turns out to be the longest inhabited place (for white people) in North America, as it was a fur trading center long before the rest of the midwest was settled (or even explored). More later - I'm falling asleep!

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Posted by jl98584 20:05 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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