Outdoor enthusiasts often put a lot of consideration into where they want to go on their next great adventure. They may want to go to a climate different from the one they live in throughout the year, or simply someplace with majestic sites and natural challenges. One place that doesn’t make very many top 10 lists is the Badlands of South Dakota. Even the name Badlands seems to suggest that nothing good can be found there. However those who have blazed the trail of the Black Hills know that a vacation in the Badlands is nothing but good.
The Big Pig Dig
One of the most amazing sights in the Badlands National Park is a huge crater dug among the natural vistas. Known as the “big pig dig”, this crater has produced over 13,000 fossils and is the site of one of the most ambitious paleontology digs in the world. Visitors are always welcome and at certain times of the year are allowed to accompany students and scientists onto the dig site to look for fossils and learn the procedures of paleontology. While visitors are certainly not allowed to remove any of the fossils they may find, they get an unforgettable experience of working at the site and access to ask questions of some of the world’s best natural scientists.
Jewel Cave National Monument
If the arid summer heat is too much for you above ground then head down below. Jewel Cave National Monument features more than 120 miles of passageways. It is the second longest cave in the United States and was explored by none other than Theodore Roosevelt himself who declared the monument in the early 1900s. Jewel Cave is famous with spelunkers for its wide variety of stalactites, stalagmites, draperies and flowstone. Guided tours are available through the cave that several times a day and the history of its development and excavation can be presented at the visitor center.
Of course the biggest draw to the South Dakota Badlands may just be the two natural carvings etched into the mountainside. The stunning works of art are not only lasting landmarks but also amazing feats of artistic, scientific and geological work. The most famous of these is Mount Rushmore, a stone mountain carving with four presidents on the face of a mountain. Mount Rushmore State Park offers a visitor center with a film about how the mountain was carved showing the epic process at work, scenic restaurant and tours daily. Not far from Mt. Rushmore is the less famous work in progress Crazy Horse Mountain. Begun in 1948 to honor the spirit of Native Americans of the North the Crazy Horse carving will feature the Native American on top of a horse pointing toward the east. So far the face and head and part of the horse have been completed as money continues to be raised to finish the statue. Because it is a work in process the Crazy Horse National Monument often features blasting and provides films and brochures on the history and future of the stunning American landmark.
Add to these three adventures Black Hills gold, family fun villages, and a friendly easy-going people and you discover that the Badlands might just be the best vacation your family has ever had.
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