About the Site
Badlands National Park  


Park History

Pinnacles Overlook

Overlooks (North)

Overlooks (Central)

Overlooks (South)

Big Badlands Overlook

Door & Window


Cedar Pass Lodge

Cedar Pass Area

Badlands Loop Road

Norbeck Pass

Fossil Exhibit Trail

Cliff Shelf Nature Trail

Other Trails



Norbeck Pass

Norbeck Pass is one of the places where the road crosses The Wall leading from the upper prairie to the lower prairie. Other locations include Cedar, Big Foot, and Dillon Passes. These passes used to be traversed by primitive trails used by Indians, explorers, and settlers.

Norbeck Pass provides a passage from the upper prairie north of the Wall to the lower prairie in the south. Passes, as understood in the Badlands, include the entire length of crossing from the upper level of the prairie to the lower level. The roadside at Norbeck Pass provides spectacular views of the Badlands formations as well as the prairie.

The pass is named after an early proponent of establishing a national park in the area, Peter Norbeck. Norbeck was a well-digger who was elected governor of South Dakota in 1916 and 1918 and U.S. Senator in 1920, 1926, and 1932. Norbeck participated in an effort to enlarge Yellowstone National Park, assisted in the effort to establish Custer State Park, Grand Teton National Park, and Mount Rushmore National Monument. Although Norbeck first visited the park area in 1911, Norbeck had sponsored a joint resolution requesting the establishment of a national park in the Badlands in 1909.

Norbeck worked closely with Ben Millard to lay the foundations for the establishment of the national monument, and later the national park. He had introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate to make the Badlands a national park in 1922. Despite extensive promotion and groundwork by Norbeck and Millard, they were unsuccessful in getting the area named as a national park. Norbeck pressed forward, and was the individual who insisted that land be purchased and a road built through the park area before it could be considered as a national monument. Badlands National Monument was eventually created in 1939, after Norbeck had passed away.

Norbeck also assisted in the design of the roads in the park, especially the Badlands Loop Road. Actually, Norbeck Pass as it is currently did not exist until construction of the Badlands Loop Road, which passes through it, in the 1930's.

For potential visitors, ParkVision recommends "Story Behind the Scenery" guides and "Trails Ilustrated" maps.

This pass provides an excellent view of the lower prairie out to the White River. The cliffs of The Wall as a result of erosion are moving away from the river over time. From the Rocky Mountains to the Missouri River the land slopes downward at a rate of approximately 10 feet every mile.

The formation known as The Castle is visible near the top of Norbeck Pass. The Castle is one of the higher features in park, where the elevation ranges from 2443 feet to 3255 feet.

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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

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