Monday, July 10, 2017

USA Series: A Guide to the Badlands - Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse

Many families have started exploring our national parks and monuments. Here's a guide to the Badlands including Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, Wall Drug, and Badlands National Park.

Drawing visitors from around the world, the Badlands National Park is home to one of the world's richest fossil beds. Ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse, and saber-toothed cat once roamed here. The park’s 244,000 acres protect an expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets live today.

Things to Do
  • Drive the Badlands Highway-The Highway 240 Badlands Loop Road, accessed from Interstate 90, is a two-lane, paved surface that takes you through the North Unit of the park.
  • Visit the Ben Reifel Visitor's Center- The Palentology Lab is also located here. Visitors can watch paleontologists at work and learn more about the scientific discoveries being made. Park Entrance fees are collected here. Fees are $20 per vehicle and valid for 7 Days.
  • Become a Junior Ranger- Pick up a Junior Ranger Activity Book at the Visitor's Center and complete all the fun-filled activities in the book and watch the exciting park movie, Land of Stone and Light, or attend a daily ranger-guided program (summer only) to earn your official Badlands National Park Junior Ranger badge and a signed certificate.
  • Hiking- A variety of designated hiking trails allow you to experience the beauty of the park up close and personal. Hikes range from flat stretches through the prairie landscape to uphill climbs through the Badlands formations. 
  • Complete the Badlands GPS Adventure- Download the GPS Adventure Activity Book(1.2 MB pdf) and use it to navigate to points of interest. Your GPS-enabled device will lead you to natural features, trails, and wayside exhibits where you will learn more about the park. Please remember to leave fossils, flowers, rocks, and artifacts where you find them. Collecting in the park is illegal. It also illegal to leave items behind or create human-made geocaches.
  • Visit Roberts Prairie Dog Town – Prairie Dog Town is on the Sage Creek Rim Road, where a homestead has been converted to a massive network of tunnels where you can see black-tailed prairie dogs up close. They join 39 mammal species of the prairie animals that thrive in Badlands National Park, along with various reptiles, amphibians, birds and 69 butterfly species.
  • Night Sky Observing- Summer night sky viewing is offered at the Cedar Pass Campground Amphitheater on Friday through Monday nights. Telescopes are provided and the ranger will point out constellations, stars, and planets. Everyone is given an opportunity to see impressive objects of the night sky.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial features the 60-foot faces of four great American presidents:  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.
  • Parking and the Grounds at Mt. Rushmore are open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • The Information Center, is open from 8 AM to 5 PM and is located near the parking structure. Park Rangers are on hand at the Information Center to answer questions. 
  • The Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center, a Museum that tells the story of Gutzon Borglum, his creation of Mount Rushmore and the workers who helped  is also open from 8 AM to 5 PM.
  • There are no entrance fees for the park, however parking fees to enter the park are $10 for cars, motorcycles and Rv's and can be paid by cash, Traveler's check, Visa or MasterCard.
  • Carver's Cafe is the only restaurant in the park, daily operating hours are from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM and the park Gift Shop is open from 8 AM to 8:30 PM.
  • Mount Rushmore illumination occurs nightly at approximately 9 PM and lasts until 11:00 PM, the ceremony includes a speech presentation by a park ranger and a video all about Mount Rushmore.

Crazy Horse Memorial is located in the heart of the beautiful Black Hills, located 40 miles southwest of Rapid City and about 17 miles from Mt. Rushmore. The Mountain is 6,532 ft and ranks 27th highest mountain in South Dakota. It is made of pegmatite granite and was chosen by Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski & Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear for the Crazy Horse Memorial. It is the world’s largest Mountain Carving currently in progress.
  • The Welcome Center is open 7 AM until about 30 minutes after the Laser Light Show.
  • Admission is $28.00 per car (more then 2 people), $22 per car for 1-2 people. Free for Active Military, Native Americans, Boy or Girl Scout in Class A or B uniform, Children 6 and under.
  • Laughing Water Restaurant is open 11 AM- 8 PM, Monday- Friday and 9-4 on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Close up viewing of the Memorial via bus ride is $4 per person, under 6 is free. The tour lasts approximately 25 minutes and is only available in the late afternoon M-F and all day Saturday and Sunday in the summer and early fall. This is to accommodate the crew that is working on the Memorial.
  • Laser Light Show- “Legends in Light” the Crazy Horse Memorial multimedia laser-light show is presented nightly, at dark, from Memorial Day weekend through Native Americans’ Day in October. The laser-light show effectively turns the mountainside into a giant 500-foot “screen” for the spectacular display. Show starts at 10 PM.

Custer State Park is famous for its bison herds, other wildlife, scenic drives, historic sites, visitor centers, fishing lakes, resorts, campgrounds and interpretive programs. It is also one of the nation's largest parks at 71,000 acres and located about 16 miles from Mt. Rushmore. The park is open year round, 24 hours a day. A temporary license to enter the park, good from 1-7 days is $20.

In addition to visiting the parks, you can also take an excursion:

  • Buffalo Jeep Safari Rides- An open air jeep ride in search of wildlife, with educational and historic commentary. The jeep rides leave from the State Game Lodge. This is a one and a half to two-hour adventure and reservations are recommended. (605) 255-4541
  • Chuck Wagon Cookout- Take the Buffalo Safari Jeep Ride or a vehicle-drawn hayride to a cookout in a beautiful secluded canyon for entertainment and cowboy cookin’. **A favorite activity of visitor's to the area.**Sing-along country/folk music entertains throughout the evening. Reservations are required; call (605) 255-4531
  • Horse Trail Ride- Guides lead visitors through some of the park’s most scenic back country. One- or two-hour rides are available daily leaving from Blue Bell Lodge. Full-day and half-day rides are available by special request. Reservations are recommended; call (605) 255-4571.
  • The Gordon Stockade, a replica of a log fortress built by the Gordon Party as protection from Lakota attacks during the 1874 gold rush. Visitors have the opportunity to visit with park staff on site from June through August, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. daily to learn more about this era in American History.
  • The Black Hills Playhouse, a non-profit professional summer theater located in Custer State Park. The Playhouse is associated with the University of South Dakota College of Fine Arts. Actors, directors and designers from all over the country participate in this summer theatre and training program.
  • Sylvan Lake, is one of the most popular lakes in the park and a favorite for photographers due to it's beautiful scenery. This lake was also the spot for scenes from the move, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. There's a swimming beach and boat rentals (non-motorized only) where visitors can rent paddle boats, canoes or other watercraft rentals. Fishing is allowed in any one of Custer State Park's lakes with a valid South Dakota fishing license. 
  • Legion Lake sits on the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway and has an array of offerings from campsites to camping cabins, hiking trails and swimming beach to a fishing dock, restaurant and general store. Legion Lake is popular for fishing, hiking, and swimming. 

Opened in 1931, Wall Drug is one of the world's most well-known tourist stops.
  • When the store first opened in town, the population had only 326 people and business was very slow. The owner's wife had the idea to offer traveler's headed to the newly opened Mt. Rushmore free ice water to entice them to stop in the store, they posted signs along the highway coming into town and it worked. Slowly their business grew. The store has now grown to a cowboy themed mall/ department store, that still offers free ice water today.
  • In addition to shopping at Wall Drug you will also find the Western Art Gallery Restaurant. The restaurant features the largest privately owned western and illustration art collection in the country. Wall Drug Store is known for its Famous Homemade Donuts and Rolls, Hot Beef Sandwiches, Buffalo Burgers, and 5 cent coffee!
  • Wall Drug also has several photo opportunities and activities including the Train Station Water Show, which features jumping jets perfect for splashing. Take a photos with a roaring T-rex, or in front of a miniature Mount Rushmore. And also don’t forget to check out the giant Jackalope!
  • Hours:
     Main Store- 7 AM- 5:30 PM, Daily.
     Cafe- 7 AM- 5 PM, Daily.
     Mall Shops- 8:30 AM- 5 PM, Daily
     Pharmacy- 8:30 AM- 5 PM, M-F

Have you been to the Badlands? What are your favorite tips?

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