Friday, October 7, 2016

South Dakota Trip - Badlands & Wall

Badlands National Park
They call Wall, SD "Wall" after the great wall of the Badlands, where the terrain rises over a hundred plus feet for miles to the upper prairie.  Wall is a small town next to a big National Park, which has one big store (Wall Drug) and a hand full of hotels.  On the north side of town is an impressive grain elevator system. They have railroad tracks and a grocery store, some national park and forest offices, a museum of Wounded Knee, a couple of gas stations, a green cement 40 foot brontosaurus by I-90 and little else.

Wall Drug
Wall Drug is a well known tourist destination; a whole city block full of locally historic items mixed with klitzy tourist stuff, a nice travelers chapel, cowboy just about everything, restaurants, and the Jackalope outside in the back.  The ice water has been cold and free since 1931 and coffee is still 5 cents.  I didn't try the home-style cooking, but it sure smelled good.  I can now say I have been there.
We checked into the motel and drove in to Badlands National Park, paid the $15 fee (good for 1 week) and drove from west to east stopping at all the overlooks we passed.  This was a great road trip.

Endless Erosion

Dances With Wolves movie scene, shot from the right of my viewpoint
We recognized some of Kevin Costner's "Dances With Wolves" film scenery near the Pinnacles Overlook, and enjoyed the colored bands of sediment all along the way.  The view is into the Badlands Wilderness Area and is well worth the drive here.  The upper prairie to our left seemed to go on for miles to the north with nothing but swaying grass and Prairie Dog Towns on it.  After Yellow Mounds, Conata Basin, Burns Basin, Panarama Point overlooks, the road drops down to the lower ground below the cliffs where camping and the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and the Cedar Pass Lodge are.  The sun was setting now, so we drove on back up the cliffs and stopped at the Big Badlands Overlook, watching the setting sun reflect off the far buttes, looking through the Door and Windows to the east along the trails there.

Endless Enigma
Note the white color of the late afternoon
Combinations of shadow and light
Lots of layers
Describing Badlands is difficult as it seems to change in the light or the angle of view.  Multiple striations of pink, white, buff, brown, even black with sheer spires rising high above you, impossible shapes of erosion, deep gullies, meandering streams, mounds of yellow, black and white, flat topped cliffs, all shapes receding away from you in the impossible distance.

Sun setting behind the National Park sign near the welcome center

Near the campsite
Trail to the door, sunset on the rocks
Nearly full moon
Returning in the morning, we came through the east Park entrance (for free) to shoot photos with the sun behind us.  The scenes to the south included the Buffalo Gap National Grassland with the White River running through it.  The colors were better in today's photos.  I also shot video of this trip and will add a link to the site once edited.

Shot on day 2, driving east to west
Note cactus on top of the mound
Layer detail
Continuing layers of stone
Deep erosion
Canyon and the distance
Included to show you the wind, and how your picnic plate will be in your lap without this windbreak
Our first and last endless overlook
We had only seen the emptiness and natural eroded beauty of the north unit of Badlands National Park.  I plan to return in the future to see the Stronghold unit in the south and make the drive through the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to the north unit again, maybe visiting the historic Minuteman Sites nearby.  There are also a few hiking trails to still see, and picnic areas to picnic at.  Camping here would also be nice.
All these photographs from this Road Trip are straight from my 16 MP camera, none have been modified, treated or adjusted in any way.
To get there, follow I-90 East from Rapid City about an hour to Wall, SD at exit 110.  Also in the area are the Minuteman Missile sites along I-90 at exits 116, 127 and 131.  Wounded Knee is about 60 miles south inside the reservation.

No comments:

Post a Comment