Day Twenty-Nine: Badlands and Drive to North Sioux City, South Dakota

The longest drive in one day the entire trip was today. We knew one day heading back East was going to be a doozie; so we decided to have it be on the front end.

Our drive today was just under seven hours with one stop to the Badlands National Park as the exit was on our path. We wish it had been a halfway stop to break up the drive, but unfortunately it was only an hour and a half in. Nonetheless, it was a break.

Here is a write up about the Badlands from their pamphlet: For centuries humans have viewed South Dakota’s celebrated Badlands with a mix of dread and fascination. The Lakota knew the place as ‘mako sica’. Early French trappers called the area ‘les mauvaises terres a traverser’. Both mean “bad lands”. Conservation writer Freeman Tilden described the region as “peaks and valleys of delicately banded colors- colors that shift in the sunshine and a thousand tints that color charts do not show. In the early morning and evening, when shadows are cast upon the infinite peaks or on a bright moonlit night when the whole region seems a part of another world, the Badlands will be an experience not easily forgotten”. Paleontologist Thaddeus Culbertson had another reaction: “Fancy yourself on the hottest day in summer in the hottest spot of such a place without water- without an animal and scare an insect astir- without a single flower to speak pleasant things to and you will have some idea of the utter loneliness of the Bad Lands”.

The peaks, gullies, buttes, and wide prairies of the Badlands can be challenging to cross, yet they have long attracted the interest and praise of travelers. “I’ve been about the world a lot, and pretty much over our own country,” wrote architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935, “but I was totally unprepared for the revelation called the Dakota Bad Lands…what I saw gave me an indescribable sense of mysterious elsewhere- a distant architecture, ethereal…an endless supernatural world more spiritual than earth, but created out of it”.

The Badlands are a place of extremes. Your travels here may produce conflicting responses. You may visit in summer and curse the heat (I found this part funny as it was HOT) and the violent lightning storms, yet be excited by the wildlife and wildflowers. You may come in winter, chilled by the cold and the winds that roar unhindered out of the north, and still marvel at the exquisite beauty of the moonlight glistening on the snow-dusted buttes. Whatever your feelings about the Badlands, you will not come away unaffected.

Knowing we had a long drive still ahead of us and we didn’t want to have another Mesa Verde experience, we picked one place (after researching the best overlook) to stop to see the Badlands. This was one of the best parks as far as not having to drive far once past the entrance to a viewing point. We were in and out within thirty minutes. On our way in you could see so many prairie dogs. It was like whack-a-mole!

I guess the prairie dogs took the National Park Seal off the sign, lol!
Prairie dog…all the dirt mounds are their holes!

The view that seemed to be the top rated was from the Pinnacles Overlook. Here you can get an outstanding view of the sandy pink and brown toned ridges and spires distinctive to the Badlands. From this view point you can see the landscape change revealing views of the mixed grass prairies. We started to drive down the Sage Creek Rim Drive to see the prairie dogs, however, the road was gravel and it was awful to drive on for one mile in the RV let alone five! The grooves in the road made the worst vibration noise and it was not pleasant. We drove to the second turn around point (there was no room at the first) and the view from here was amazing as well! This viewpoint was called the Hay Butte Overlook.

View from the parking lot
After a two sets of steps, this was the path down for a closer look.
Getting closer to the edge
One view looking down!
Anna Cate and Will
Another view from the point you can go out the furthest to view on the path.
All the kids apparently standing in height order (minus Pawley).
The Rollin’ Rabkes
View of the prairies off in the distance and the road is the grave path of the Sage Creek Rim Drive.
Beautiful purple flowers growing in the wild.
Loved the grasses too!
Left side view from the Hay Butte Overlook
Right side view from the Hay Butte Overlook

After the Badlands, our drive continued for another five and a half hours. It was a straight, boring drive. The grass was a beautiful green and if the fields were not full of corn, they were filled with hay bales. Tonight we simply needed a place to stop and sleep for the night. We picked North Sioux City, South Dakota KOA as it was right off the interstate.

Straight and green for miles!
Lots of corn!
And hay bales!

We pulled in at 8:10 pm. The RV Resort is great. Very clean, campsites are not too close, clean bathhouses, laundry room and the store has a pizza kitchen! Eli was bummed we missed the cutoff for a pizza delivery to our RV.

Front office (KOA has a triangular theme going on at all their locations!).

I forgot when we made the reservation this week we opted for a patio RV slot which are so nice (and give you much more space around your site) at KOA’s. We pulled in and hooked up so I could get our easy and fast dinner of pasta ready. Dinner was enjoyed outside on the patio after Betsie (our germaphobe) took Clorox to the table and chairs! After dinner Betsie started a campfire for us and we enjoyed s’mores again! The evening was just perfect and the breeze was lovely coming off a warm day. We had a great conversation about the trip so far and I can’t wait to share everything with you at the end. Rving in the USA has truly been an unbelievable experience!

Front view of our RV site
Side view
S’mores time!

2 thoughts on “Day Twenty-Nine: Badlands and Drive to North Sioux City, South Dakota

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