|About the Site|
|Badlands National Park|
The Castle Trail The longest designated trail in Badlands National Park is the Castle Trail. The trail is about 5.25 miles in length and connects the area across the road from the Fossil Exhibit Trail and the Door and Window area near Cedar Pass.
The trail skirts the rim of the Wall and also meanders across sections of Badland's mixed-grass prairie.
The Castle Trail runs through arid country and there is no tree cover along its path. The trailhead for the west end of the trail is across the Badlands Loop Road from the Fossil Exhibit Trail, and is seen below.
The east end of the trail is across the road from the Door and the Window Trails parking lot. It runs through prairie at this point, as can be seen below.
Although arid, the trail is fairly level, but it lacks a number of different access points.
Saddle Pass Trail The short (a quarter to three quarters of a mile) trail connects an area along the Badlands Loop Road with the Castle Trail and the Medicine Loop Root Trail. Quite steep, this trail climbs the Badlands Wall. The trail follows a route which may have been established by American Indians who traveled the area. The trail difficult and is largely impassable when it is wet.
Badlands National Park features a number of animals, including bison, pronghorn, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, black-footed ferrets, and swift foxes, jackrabbits, cottontains, mule deer, coyotes, badgers, and big horn sheep. Reptiles include rattlesnakes, bull snakes, and blotched tiger salamanders. There are 55 mammal species, 120 bird species, and 19 species of reptiles and amphibians present in the park.
For potential visitors, ParkVision recommends "Story Behind the Scenery" guides and "Trails Ilustrated" maps.
At one time the American prairie hosted an enormous number of bison, which numbered in the millions. Across the continent many of the bison were destroyed by hunting. In the Badlands area, a drought in 1861 which lasted 3 years drove the bilson from the area. However, by the time the area was designated a national monument in 1939 there were no bison remaining. In 1963-64 53 bison, brought from Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, were reintroduced into the park to replace the animals which one grazed on the plains there. By 1970 the herd had increased to 400. The park's current herd has increased to as many as 300-500 animals.
Pronghorn Among the animals which can be found in the park are the pronghorn antelope which live on the open plains. The ancestors of these animals originated in the area and the descendants have remained. These animals have light bodies, long, muscular legs, a huge heart, and an efficient respiratory system. Smaller than a deer, they are the fastest of the all North American animals, able to sustain a top speed in excess of 40-50 miles per hour for a distance of up to 5 miles. They use this speed, in addition to very strong eyesight, for protection. The pronghorn below may be seen in the prairie where it grazes on the grass. The pronghorn antelope has a very tough mouth and tongue. This enables the animals to eat catctus, including the spines. Its coloration also offers protection as it allows the animals to blend into the background.
This beautiful animal has horns which end in a short hook. The males shed part of their pronged horn following the breeding season. It is the only survivng member of the North American antelope family. The pronghorn is another animal which has returned to the park. When it is alarmed, hairs on the animal's rump are raised as a signal ???.
Prairie Dogs Another of the frequently viewed animals in the park are the prairie dogs. The park contains hundreds of these animals. The variety of these animals found in Badlands National Park are the black-tailed prairie dogs. These rodents measure about 12 inches long.
Prairie dogs are sociable animals which live in towns which are divided into "wards" which a male boss presides over. Towns consist of hundreds of individuals. The towns are also divided into neighborhoods called coteries. Most of the prairie dog towns in the park are away from the Badlands Loop Road and aren't easy to see. There is at least one town along the loop, and there is also one along the Sage Canyon Road.
The prairie dog towns are composed of burrows dug the the animals themselves. The prairie dog burrows range between 10 and 15 feet in depth. These tunnels include passageways, sleeping rooms, latrines, and storage rooms. The animals duck into these burrows as protection from predators, which may include hawks, badgers, coyotes, bobcats, swift foxes, and ferrets. Prairie dogs feed on insects, grasses, roots, and wildflower seeds, as well as cactus.
The prairie dog has a 2 syllable bark. The prairie dogs are quite noisy when then see what they perceive to be danger.
Information about Badlands National Park has been drawn from personal experience, data available in the park itself, and a number of other sources, including:
- Badlands National Park. (1995). Rapid City, SD: Terrell Creative.
- Badlands National Park Official Road Guide. Interior, SD: Badlands Natural History Assn.
- Beasley, Jr., Conger. (1996). Badlands National Park. In TheSierra Club Guides to the National Parks: Rocky Mountains & the Great Plains. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang.
- Bennett, Ross (Ed.). (1980). The New America's Wonderlands: Our National Parks. Washington, DC: The Reader's Digest Association, Inc.
- Butcher, Devereux. (1949). Exploring Our National Parks and Monuments. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
- Cerney, Jan. (2004). Images of America: Badlands National Park. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing.
- Durant, Mary, and Harwood, Michael. (1988). This Curious Country. Badlands National Park. Rapid City, SD: Fenskie Media Corporation.
- Hauk, Joy Keve. (2006). Badlands: Its Life and Landscape. Interior, SD: Badlands Natural History Association.
- National Geographic's Guide to the National Parks of the United States (6th Edition). (2009). National Geographic Society.
- National Geographic Guide to the National Parks: West. (2005). Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society.
- National Parks. Explore America. (1993). Pleasantville, NY: The Reader's Digest Association, Inc.
- National Parks of North America. (1995). Washington, DC: National Geographic Society.
- Oswald, Michael Joseph. (2012). Your Guide to the National Parks. Whitelaw, WI: Stone Road Press.
- Shuler, Jay. (1989). A Revelation Called the Badlands: Building a National Park. Interior, SD: Badlands Natural History Assn.
- Tilden, Freeman. (1970). The National Parks. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
- Werner, Susan J (Ed.). (1989). Our National Parks: America's Spectacular Wilderness Heritage. Pleasantville, NY: The Reader's Digest Association, Inc.
- Zarki, Joseph W. (2011). Badlands: The Story Behind the Scenery. Wickenberg, AZ: KC Publications.
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