|About the Site|
|Badlands National Park|
Cedar Pass Area
The area north of Cedar Pass, where the visitor center, park employee facilities, and Cedar Pass Lodge are located also providse scenic views of the Badlands.
In the areas of Cedar Pass and Castle Butte, the cliffs of the Wall rise about 150 feet above the grasslands in the north and 450 feet above the lower prairie.
The mountain known as Vampire Peak once had two spires which looked like the fangs of a vampire bat. It was named by J.I. Peterkin in 1915 apparently because he saw bats flying in the vicinity of the mountain. One of these spires fell in a thunderstorm on November 22, 1950. Vampire Peak rises about 130 feet above the plain where the Badlands Loop Road runs. The spires of the peak are composed of consolidated ash, and as a result they erode very quickly. Between 1915 and 1950 the mountain lost an average of an inch of height every two years.
The Wall presents a tawny look from the southern or lower prairie. The rocks found in the Badlands are composed primarily of soft clays and silts.
The earliest version of the Cedar Pass road mas not much better than a trail. It was so steep that horses leading wagons sometimes dropped to their knees on the uphill pull, and special precautions for the downhill route had to be made, such as rough locking of the wagons with logs or chains.
For potential visitors, ParkVision recommends "Story Behind the Scenery" guides and "Trails Ilustrated" maps.
In the picture below the route through Cedar Pass is toward the right side of the picture.
The process of erosion is very rapid at Cedar Pass. The Badlands Loop Road is actually slipping lower every year.
Badlands National Park, which is far away from large cities and heavily illuminated areas, is a good place to view the stars at night.
At the Cliff Shelf area adjacent to the pass and the Badlands Loop Road water is retained by the compressed rock which has slipped down the cliff. The relative abundance of water in this area, at least in comparison to the generally arid conditions elsewhere in the Badlands, have made the pass area attractive for camping by hunters and other travelers in historic times.
In 1910, homesteaders harvested the juniper trees found in this area and used the wood to create rot-resistant fenceposts. Junipers were previously more numerous in the park but became rarer after being cut by homesteaders. The pass came to be known as Cedar Pass.
The high cliff on the wall here is known as Millard Ridge, named after Ben Millard on June 28, 1957. Its elevation reaches 2890 feet, standing about 210 feet feet above the road as it winds through the pass. The mountains here are covered by a durable caprock composed of sandstone and conglomerate deposits, which make the mountain relatively hard and resistant to erosion. Millard Ridge erodes 3000 times more slowly than other areas in the park.
The formations of the Wall are illuminated by the sun at the end of the day, adding to their beauty.
The sun sets behind the formations of the Wall and can be viewed across the road from Cedar Pass Lodge.
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- All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013
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