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



Overlooks (South)

Bigfoot Pass Overlook This overlook is on the north side of the Badlands Loop Road and provides a spectacular view of one of the major passes through the Badlands. The turnout also includes a picnic area.

Bigfoot Pass is an ancient trail used by people to cross the Badlands from the northern prairie to the southern ones. The overlook also provides a view of the grasslands of the upper prairie.

The view from this overlook is one of the most beautiful in the park, and the views in the park are among the most magnificent in the west. In the view below, a portion of the Badlands Loop Road can be seen in the left middle of the picture as it runs through the pass.

Because of the high rates of erosion, most traces of the trails established by native inhabitants, fur traders, homesteaders, and other travelers have long been erased

This pass has historical significance. In December of 1890 Chief Big Foot, chief of the Miniconjou Sioux, led his people across the Badlands on a trail through the pass near this location, attempting to evade the U.S. 7th Cavalry. There were 350 people in the group. The Indians were fleeing to Wounded Knee to the South.

White River Valley Overlook This overlook lies east of Bigfoot Pass and provides a view of the rim area and the prairie to the south. Off in the distance the White River flows, eventually into the Missouri River.

The White River drains the badlands in the south and the west. There are badlands in other areas in this part of the country, but those in Badlands National Park are often referred to as the "White River Badlands." The White River is about 5 miles miles from the Wall. The cliffs of the Badlands, however, have been moving further from the White River as they are eroded.

The water of the White River is very cloudy, which is responsible for its name. This quality is due to the clay and silt particles in the water. These particles carry an electrical charge which makes them repel each other and unable to settle, causing the water to remain cloudy. The nature of this water made it unhealthy to drive for explorers and other travelers on the arid plains. However, it was discovered that place a slice of cactus pad into the water would enable the particles to to settle and made it drinkable, at least for animals.

The first description of the White River Badlands was provided by James Clyman, a member of Jedediah Smith's trapping and trading expedition.

This overlook also provides a spectacular view of "The Castle", one of the higher peaks in the park and a significant landmark. Some formations in the White River Badlands reach a height of 300 feet.

The uppermost layers of the park derive from the Sharp formation. These form the most severely and spectacularly eroded terrain here. The youngest rocks in the park contain ash from volcanoes which long ago erupted far to the west of the Badlands. Layers of volcanic ash laid down in the area by ancient eruptions have a whitish appearance. The most vertical of the cliffs in the park are formed of this material.

A great deal of the erosion which occurs in the park results from brief torrents of rain which come as a result of thunderstorms or other weather. The materials which are eroded from formations in the area are carried by snowmelt and rainwater toward the Bad River on the east, the Cheyenne on the north and west, and the White River on the south side of the area.

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

The area of the wall is about 60 miles from one end to the other. It has been described as a "swath of eroding clays" (Bennett, 1980), as erosion has scoured the formations of the Wall. This erosive action has created what has been called the "strange beauty of the terrain" (Durant & Harwood, 1988).

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

  • Commercial use of the images contained in this document without express written consent is strictly prohibited.

  • Comments and other remarks can be sent via e-mail to parkvision@shannontech.com

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