This park's sharply textured rock formations share a 244,000-acre landscape with the largest protected mixed-grass prairie in the United States.
The buttes, pinnacles and spires that define this region have been eroding for half a million years into their distinctive shapes — and continue to erode at a rate of about an inch per year. The park’s rugged beauty attracts visitors from around the world, and its geologic deposits contain the world’s richest Oligocene epoch fossil beds, estimated at 23 to 35 million years old. Badlands National Park is also an excellent place to see the night sky; on any given night, visitors may see up to 7,500 stars and a particularly clear view of the Milky Way.
A Matter of Perspective
Although native Oglala Lakota referred to the remarkable geology in this park as the "Paha ska," or white hills, the more common name today comes from early French trappers who declared the region "mauvaises terres à traverser" — bad lands to travel across.
More about Badlands
Blog Post 10 Spectacular Parks for Stargazing As the days get shorter, stargazers have more opportunities to celebrate the night—and national parks offer some of the darkest skies in the country.
Fact Sheet Polluted Parks: Fact Sheets Haze pollution limits views of our most valued national parks and wilderness areas, affecting not just how far we can see, but also the color, sharpness, and quality of the view. It also makes the air unhealthy for people, wildlife and natural resources.
Magazine Article Lessons in the Tallgrass A teacher guides high-school students into the wilderness and learns a few valuable lessons herself.