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|Badlands National Park|
Visitor Facilities and the Cedar Pass Lodge
Cedar Pass Lodge The major area featuring visitor facilities is located in the east end of Badlands National Park just south of Cedar Pass on the Badlands Loop Road. Cedar Pass Lodge contains 21 small cabins, including some old ones known as the "historic cabins", and a large cottage. These cabins were built around the time that the automobile began to bring visitors to the area.
Cedar Pass Lodge provide the only lodging, food services, and gift store in the park. It is open seasonally from mid-April through mid-October. The lodge also features a casual restaurant and a gift shop. The gift store features silver jewelry and crafts made by local artists and artisans.
Land for the lodge was acquired by Ben Millard and his sister at $10 an acre. The lodge and other facilities in the Cedar Pass area were built in 1926. Ben, sometimes called the "the Father of the Badlands" (Cerney, 2004) is also considered to be the park's first naturalist. Later, in 1937, Millard bought the Cedar Pass Lodge which he had been managing from his sister. Millard also gave nightly talks about the geology of the area at Cedar Pass Lodge.
Interestingly, Millard and his sister originally wanted to build the visitor facilities in the cedar grove to the north below what it now known as Millard Ridge. In actuality the lower basin site was a fortuitous choice as the Cliff Shelf site is geologically unstable. Below is a view of the Cedar Pass visitor area from the Cedar Pass area.
In 1928 Cedar Pass Camp opened in this location to provide refreshments for visitors to the area. By the 1930's it had become a popular stop for Badlands travelers.
For potential visitors, ParkVision recommends "Story Behind the Scenery" guides and "Trails Ilustrated" maps.
Eventually the Cedar Pass area also featured the Lodge Dance Hall, located just south of where the visitor center is located today. Known as the Cedar Pass Hotel and built with bark-covered board slabs from lumber mills in the Black Hills, The dance hall, which also contained a kitchen, dining room and curio shop, was also built by Ben Millard. The dance hall hosted musicians, one of the most well known of which was probably bandleader Lawrence Welk and his bands The Hotsy Totsy Boys and also The Honolulu Fruit Gum Orchestra. Welk, of course, was later host of a popular television show. The dance hall was eventually removed, and the wood from the building was used to build some additional cabins at Cedar Pass Lodge.
In 1964 the Cedar Pass Lodge was purchased by the National Park Service. It was operated between 1971 and 2002 by Ogalala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
The cabins are small and simply furnished. Each cabin is carpeted, has wood paneled walls, and features a private bathroom. There are 1, 2, and 3 bedroom apartments. Some of the stucco cabins are shown below.
There are a variety of picnic tables located around the cabin area, some of which can be seen below.
Visitor Center It is short walk northeast from the lodge area to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Ben Millard originally donated 28 acres of the land he and his sister had acquired for visitor facilities for a park headquarter building and a visitor center. Millard was also responsible for some time for acquiring land for the national monument.
In 1950 an administration building was added to the development in the Cedar Pass area. The previous visitor center was leveled in 1958 to prepare for a new visitor center. After construction of the new visitor center, juniper trees were moved from the Pinnacles area to landscape the site. The new visitor center was officially dedicated on September 16, 1959.
This visitor center was renamed in 1990 for Congressman Ben Reifel, a member of the Sioux tribe from the Rosebud Reservation who represented his district in South Dakota in Congress from 1960-1970. The renaming took place in a ceremony on May 11, 1991. In 2006, a renovation of the visitor center was completed, including new exhibits, the indoor theater, improved restrooms, classroom facilities, and a new bookstore.
The Ben Reifel Visitor Center is open daily year around, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. The center serves as the main information desk for the park, and is the location of the Badlands Natural History Association bookstore. The bookstore features books, brochures, maps, the park newspaper, and other printed information. There is a theater, exhibits, and other information resources. There is also a fossil lab in the building where visitors can watch scientists and technicians as they work on fossils found in the park. Ranger-led walks also depart from the visitor center.
The Cedar Pass area also includes an amphitheater and a campground. It is a short walk from the lodge to the campground and also the amphitheater where ranger talks are held. The campground is about 1/2 mile southwest of the visitor center. It features hardened surfaces for campsites, and also provided picnic tables for outdoor meals. In this photograph, the theater is located just beyond the small peak shown here.
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- All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013
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