By: Ashley Zhu

History of Park

Before the Badlands were a National Park, the U.S. Air Force claimed 341,726 acres of land from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for gunnery, and used extensively from 1942 to 1945. In 1968, the land was declared excess property and a majority of the land was returned to the National Park Service, becoming the Badlands.


According to, the climate in the Badlands varies from -40 to 116 degrees Fahrenheit! You should expect very cold weather during the winter months (November to February), and lots of rain in May and June. July and August are extremely dry and hot, with temperatures in the 100s and some thunderstorms.


There are all sorts of activities you can do in the Badlands. Here are just a few you might want to consider if you go to the Badlands:

  • BECOME A JUNIOR RANGER- If you are interested in helping protect our national parks, then becoming a junior ranger is the place for you! Just pick up a book and complete all the activities, and attend a ranger-guided program to earn your certificate, and you are a junior ranger!
  • OBSERVE THE NIGHT SKY- After the evening ranger program, stay and relax to enjoy the star-filled night sky! There are telescopes provided, and a ranger will point out the different celestial objects in the sky.
  • GO ON A GPS ADVENTURE- Download the GPS Adventure Activity Book to help you go to wherever in the park you want. You will also be equipped with a GPS device, but remember to leave all fossils and other artifacts you find in the park.

Fun Facts

Did you know that Badlands witnessed one of the last "Ghost dances" in 1890? These dances were performed by the Lakota Indians, who believed that doing this dance would make them bullet proof and push the white men out of their territory.

The Badlands average around 1 inch of erosion each year. Imagine how much rock would wear away in your lifetime! The three rivers - the White river, the Bad river, and the Cheyenne river greatly contribute to the erosion.

The Badlands is one of the world's richest fossil beds. The White river contains a significant amount of the fossils in the park, including prehistoric camels, three-toed horses, saber-toothed tigers, deer-like mammals, and more, all existing some 75 million years ago.

Association with Native Americans

Badlands has a strong connection with Native Americans. Native American tribes have lived and hunted here for over 11,000 years. Many tribes including the Lakota, paleo-Indians, and the Arikara people. People camped out in valleys where fresh water and animals were plentiful. At the top of the Badland valleys, they could keep an eye out for enemies. But in the 1900s, the U.S. Government took the Native Americans' land away from them as more Europeans started to move in, forcing them to live in reservations.