Virtual Facilities

Ben Reifel Visitor Center welcome sign alongside highway with badlands in the background
The park has two visitor centers, several restrooms, campgrounds, and picnic areas

NPS Photo / Ed Welsh

 
 

Badlands National Park has a variety of facilities along our roads and trails to facilitate safe and convenient experiences in the park.

 

Ameneties: vault toilets, picnic benches, and horse corral.

Safety Message

  • For any wildlife, maintain safe distances. If the animal’s behavior is affected by your presence, you are too close.
  • Please do not approach or feed wildlife.
  • If Bison are present, please maintain a safe distance, or stay in your vehicle. Bison are wild and unpredictable, making them dangerous.
  • Prairie rattlesnakes sun themselves in open areas or hide in grass, so please watch where you step.

Overview

The Sage Creek Campground is a primitive campground nested within a low valley in the wilderness area. Prairie dogs are present in the area and Bison can occasionally be found wandering through the campground. Horseback riding is allowed in the park for people who can bring horses, but this campground has the only accessible corral. Trails are visible throughout this area, but they are not developed or maintained by the park. These are game trails made by Bison. You are free to explore the area using these trails, but please maintain good safety practices if Bison are in the area.

Geology

This area is where the Badlands disappear. The formations that make up the White River Badlands have already eroded away, with the exception of a few hilltops with remnants of the Chadron Formation (Eocene Epoch, 37.0-33.7 million years ago). The surrounding hills of rolling prairie are comprised entirely of marine deposits from the Late Cretaceous Period (approximately 72.0-69.0 million years ago). The Pierre Shale is a dark gray to black sediment that is the most abundant in the immediate area. Above the Pierre, is the brown to yellow beds of the Fox Hills Formation. These two units represent the Western Interior Seaway, which bisected North America from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. The most common fossils that have been discovered in these units include clams and various shelled relatives of squid and octopus.

More information about Badlands Geology can be found on the park website

Potential Wildlife

  • Black tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus)
  • North American beaver (Castor canadensis)
  • American Bison (Bison bison)
  • Coyote (Canis latrans)
  • Prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridus)
  • Various birds
The Cedar Pass Campground is one of two campgrounds in the park, the other being Sage Creek Campground. Unlike Sage Creek Campground, Cedar Pass Campground is the only campground with access to running water and electricity. The Winter or Group Loop is accessible to visitors year-round. The main campground is open seasonally, following the schedule of the Cedar Pass Lodge. Arrangements for camping can be made through the Cedar Pass Lodge and Campground.
The Amphitheater, located on the north side of the Cedar Pass Campground, is where nightly ranger programs are conducted on various subjects that focus on the park and its resources. Special events, such as guest speakers and concerts, can also happen here. However, one of the biggest draws to the Amphitheater is the Night Sky program. Astronomy rangers provide a tour of one of the best dark skies in the National Park Service. Visitors can ask questions, learn more about the galaxy, and view telescopes pointed at celestial objects like planets.

Ameneties: Vault toilets and picnic benches.

The Conata Picnic Ground is one of the more remote rest stops, just off Highway 240. Vault toilets and picnic benches are available. This area is also fairly easy to explore on foot. The west side of the parking lot hosts the Deer Haven trailhead.

This area is also where visitors Steve Gasman and Jim Carney reported a fossil find in in 1994. Their initial find would later become the Big Pig Dig, the excavation of a bone bed which would last 15 years.

Operation Schedule: Seasonally, from mid-April to mid-October

Amenities: Restrooms, potable water, restaurant, food, snacks, drinks, picnic benches, gift shop, and visitor information

The Cedar Pass Lodge was the first establishment in what would later become Badlands National Park. IFounded by Ben Millard in 1926, it was originally a barn-like structure that served as a dance hall. Famous names, like Lawrence Welk, played to a crowded hall on weekends. Cabins were also available for people wanting to visit the Badlands. Today, the Cedar Pass Lodge has lodging and camping available for visitors as well as a gift shop, convenience store, and restaurant.

Amenities: Bathrooms, potable water, picnic benches, tribal craft vendors, and visitor information

The White River Visitor Center is open seasonally during the summer. This is the information and orientation center for visitors to the South Unit of Badlands National Park t. The South Unit is made up of the Stronghold Unit and Palmer Creek Unit, which are co-managed between the National Park Service and the Oglala Lakota Nation. The White River Visitor Center focuses on Lakota culture and history as well as other park resources.

Operation Schedule: Year-Round, hours vary by season

Amenities: Restrooms, potable water, picnic benches, gift shop, and visitor information

The Visitor Center

The Ben Reifel Visitor Center is the prime stop for information and orientation of Badlands National Park. Rangers are available to answer questions, a park film gives a light overview of the park, exhibits provide deeper insight into the natural and cultural history of the region, and a gift shop is available for souvenirs and mementos. Exhibits cover the geologic, paleontologic, biologic, and cultural resources of the area. Proceeds from the Badlands Natural History Association, the nonprofit which runs the park gift shop, fund many Badlands programs.

During the Summer, a paleontology preparation laboratory is available for public visitation. In the lab, park visitors can talk to park paleontologists about the fossils being found in the park and ask about active discoveries. A wall of fame is also present, displaying visitors who have shared fossil discoveries in the park through its Visitor Site Report Program. Anyone can make discoveries in the park; however, removing or collecting them is illegal without proper permits. Visitors are encouraged to document discoveries through photos, GPS, or written directions and let park staff know what they’ve found.

Who was Ben Reifel?

Benjamin Reifel, also known as Lone Feather, was the first Congressman elected with Lakota heritage, representing South Dakota’s 1st congressional district. Mr. Reifel belonged to the Brule (or Burnt Thigh) tribe. He was also the only Native American Congressman during the 1960’s. He served 5 terms from 1961-1971.

Reifel decided not to seek reelection in 1971, but still remained in government service during the administrations of President Richard Nixon and President Gerald Ford. During this interval, he spent time serving as Special Assistant for Indian programs to the Director of the National Park Service.

 
Bighorn lambs on an overlook precipice

Overlooks

Overlooks throughout the park

signpost indicating mileage with the title

Trails

Explore the trails throughout the park

Concrete survey marker exposed several inches due to erosion

Features

Highlights of significant geologic and historical features throughout the park

Last updated: May 7, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

25216 Ben Reifel Road
Interior, SD 57750

Phone:

(605) 433-5361

Contact Us