What Is Badlands National Park?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2019
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Badlands National Park is a protected wildlife area in the American state of South Dakota that is maintained and operated by the National Park Service of the United States. It was not designated as a national park until 1978; before that time, it was considered a national monument. Even earlier, it was a gunnery range as well as a site for rituals performed by Native Americans. Badlands National Park was also a hunting ground for the Lakota Indians for centuries before European settlers discovered the area. The park is notable for its unique landscape that includes eroded buttes and pinnacles, as well as grass prairies. The black-footed ferret can be found in the park, and it is a protected endangered species that is one of the most endangered mammals in North America.

The history of Badlands National Park as a distinguished protected entity was not without bloodshed and fighting. The Wounded Knee Massacre, in which almost three hundred Sioux Indians were slaughtered by the United States Army, took place only a few miles outside the park's boundary, and many of the events that led up to this massacre took place in the area that would become Badlands National Park. This area was the home of many Native American tribes until they were forced off the land and onto reservations as European Settlers moved into the territory.


During World War II, part of the land that would become Badlands National Park was seized by the U.S. government and used as a gunnery range. Armaments would shoot at target aircraft overhead, and bombs or other weapons were tested by airplanes meant for combat. Today, many shell casings and other shrapnel can be found in the park, scattered around from the testing that was done in this area. Many families who had settled on the land during that era needed to be relocated to avoid injury or death as a result of falling shrapnel and shell casings.

The weather at Badlands National Park can be particularly unpredictable. High winds are common throughout the year, and in the summer, temperatures can reach over 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius). In the winter, snow is very likely, and temperatures can plummet as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 degrees Celsius). The weather is notorious for changing rapidly and without notice, and injury or death is possible in the park if a visitor is unprepared for all weather.


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