• Badlands formations against the blue sky; photo by Rikk Flohr

    Badlands

    National Park South Dakota

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  • Visitor Center Open / Road Construction

    Park roads and parking lots are under construction. Expect occasional 10 - 15 minute road construction delays along Hwy 240 Loop Road. There is limited parking at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Please follow the signs to park in designate areas.

Prairies and Grasslands

Badlands National Park protects one of the largest expanses of mixed-grass prairie in the United States. The mixed-grass prairie contains both ankle-high and waist-high grasses, and fills a transitional zone between the moister tall-grass prairie to the east and the more arid short-grass prairie to the west.

Biologists have identified more than 400 different plant species growing in Badlands National Park. Each plant species is adapted to survive the conditions prevalent in the mixed-grass prairie ecosystem. The climate here is one of extremes: hot, cold, dry, windy and stormy with blizzards, floods, droughts, and fires. Although you can find trees, shrubs, and forbs, it is grasses that dominate the landscape.

 
Prairie coneflower

Western wheatgrass is the predominant grass in the prairie areas of Badlands National Park. Growing one to two feet high, it is a sod builder and thrives on the clay soils of the Badlands. Some forbs and grasses that grow in association with western wheatgrass are prairie coneflower, white milkwort, needle-and-thread grass, and prairie dropseed.

The native grasses of the mixed-grass prairie serve as important food sources for many species of wildlife, from prairie dogs to bison. Historically, grasslands were North America’s most extensive biome, but today most of the prairie has been altered by agriculture or development. As part of its preservation efforts, the National Park Service personnel manage non-native species and reintroduce native species where they have been extirpated. Learn more about how the National Park Service works to preserve biodiversity.

Did You Know?

Historic photo of the Cedar Pass cabins

The Cedar Pass Lodge dates back to 1928 when Ben Millard and his sister Clara opened the Cedar Pass Camp to provide services to tourists braving the area's dusty, undeveloped roads. The Camp once consisted of a grocery store, gas station, dance hall, and cabins. It remains an oasis for travelers.