Motion Episodes

Badlands National Park

You will find a rugged setting of spires, canyons and wide-open grasslands at Badlands National Park. While its name does a good job describing the park, there is an amazing amount of life, color and magic that's easy to discover if you know how and where to look.
Badlands National Park protects 243,000 acres in western South Dakota. It is made up of the main geologic feature called The Badlands Wall and the largest mixed-grass prairie in the United States. Because of its unique layering and location, Badlands has been one of the top spots on earth for discovering dinosaur fossils -- but its also a great place to see animals with a little more meat on their bones and incredibly accessible for those ready for some hiking.

Sarah signed up to be a Motion guest hiker with an awesome You Tube video she did from her hometown of Chicago. She brought her friend Emily.

The most popular way to see Badlands National Park is from the Loop Drive along Highway 240. This drive skirts the rim of the main Badlands Wall, giving visitors excellent views of the park and the prairies below.

The Badlands Wall is a surreal landscape stretching off into the distance, revealing bleached white soil striped with colored layers below. The layers help tell the story of the Badlands and give clues to what happened there long ago. Once an ancient sea bed, the soil of Badlands is a record of global changes over millions of years. The lighter layers are made up of ash from past volcanic eruptions, the red layers show time periods of heavy erosion and silt. In more recent history, this part of the country was home to the Great Sioux Nation and its seven tribes. The Lakota Sioux that hunted buffalo on these prairies for thousands of years, still co-manage the southern district of Badlands today.

The rim-drive on Highway 240 has a ton of places to pull off, check out the views and take in the unique scenes. It will also take you right past several wide stretches away from the Wall to see the furry Badlands' residents -- prairie dogs.

Prairie dogs live in large areas called 'towns' and are usually made up of several families called 'clans.' Research has shown that prairie dogs are highly social and have a sophisticated way of vocally communicating with members of their clan when danger nears. With excellent eye sight and awareness, prairie dogs can give different kinds of warning cries specific to the kind of threat they see.

Greg and guest hikers took a walk on the Castle Trail -- a Motion must do! After starting out in the bizarre, eroded pinnacles near the Fossil Loop Trail, the trail took them on to the open prairie and through the endless expanse of grasslands to the north. The farther Greg, Sarah and Emily got away from the trailhead, the more connected they felt to this amazing place.

Weather at Badlands can be tricky. Violent spring thunderstorms can pound the park with hail, lightning and occasionally tornados. In the summer, heat waves can blast the mercury into the triple digits, making a hike dangerous.

While storms can strike the Badlands in spring and summer, this is still a very dry place with only 16 inches of rainfall a year on average. The Motion crew shot this episode in April and had a mix of blue sky, light rain and stubborn winds. But the mild temperatures and cloudy skies on their hike kept everyone cool.

The best chance to see some wildlife at Badlands is to take the unpaved Sage Creek Rim Road. This is the dirt road that turns right off of Highway 240 when you enter the park from Wall, South Dakota. Unlike the main Loop Drive, you won't see turnouts, bathrooms and interpretive signs -- but you will see wildlife.

Bison are commonly called buffalo in the American west even though the only true 'buffalo' live in Asia and Africa. They were an important part of the survival and culture of Native American tribes across the plains -- with numbers in the millions before white settlers moved west in the early 1800s. Aggressive hunting led to the near extinction of these majestic animals. Today, bison live in protected areas and national parks, like Badlands, in small herds.

Bighorn sheep, mule deer, antelope and wild turkey also call Badlands home.

The Motion crew stayed at the Frontier Cabins in Wall, South Dakota, just outside Badlands National Park. The cozy cabins are well furnished with lots of privacy, have a great layout for the entire family and are just minutes from the park's west gate.

For More Information:

Segment 1
The Scenic Hwy 240 Loop
The Scenic Hwy 240 Loop
Taking the Highway 240 loop is the perfect way to get started exploring Badlands -- from picturesque views, to amazing wildlife, this drive has it all.
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Segment 2
Castle Trail
Castle Trail
With dark skies and rain looming, Greg, Sarah, and Emily decide to get out of the car and hit the trail. The combination of steep canyons and open grasslands make for a perfect break from the road.
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Segment 3
Badlands Extreme Landscape
Badlands Extreme Landscape
Badlands National Park is filled with the kind of scenic wonder that makes our park system so incredible. Emily, Sarah, and Greg were in awe of the beauty of the Badlands and the abundance of wildlife.
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Segment 4
Frontier Cabins
Frontier Cabins
While exploring the many faces of Badlands National Park, the crew found the perfect place to stay -- the cozy Frontier Cabins near the west entrance of the park.
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Photo Gallery
Photos of Badlands National Park
Go behind the scenes the Motion crew shoots an episode at Badlands National Park.
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