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Badlands National Park is located just south of Interstate 90 near Wall, SD. The park is divided into several units, with most of the recognizable features such as the Wall in the North Unit. The geology of the Badlands consists of several layers including shale of an inland sea, mud and sand flowing down from the Black Hills and ash from ancient volcanoes in the Rocky Mountains. The resulting land forms are quite remarkable in shape and color and provide endless opportunities for both grand view and abstract compositions. But they are not permanent, even on our short human time scale. Erosion of these relatively soft formations is noticeable when looking at photos of just fifty years ago.
One of the most colorful areas are the Yellow Mounds. On this visit, I stopped at the Yellow Mounds Overlook just after sunrise. The road had just been repaved and striped. The contrast between it and the surrounding yellow/orange hills was quite striking. I especially liked the sinuous curves which almost beg you to explore what’s around the bend. “Everyday is a winding road” and “The long and winding road” popped into my head as I looked at this scene.
The park does have a lodge and both front-country and back-country camping areas. Of course, you can also stay at several motels in Wall. All of my visits have been in summer, when approaching thunderstorms can provide dramatic skies. And while I have thankfully never encountered one, watch out for rattlesnakes if you venture off-trail.
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