We thundered our way through three states, making haste to meet our friends at Happy Productions in Minnesota. A set of bad valve cover seals had me spraying an oil slick out from behind the bus and the highways through North Dakota are long. Like really long. But each of these three states—Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota—had their own brand of Badlands.
Nebraska’s version of the badlands looked more like something from Utah than the famous ones north of here. There are washed out and angular. The park, Toadstool Geologic Park, is down a long gravel road and well worth the drive. Bring water and sunscreen because there is no respite from the heat. Once you’re at the park a trail takes you up and over and around the formations. And there’s tons of fossils. And no crowds.
We went north to Badlands NP, where I earned my junior ranger badge some thirty-one years ago. The colors of the rocks are perhaps the most striking. But, like most of the National Parks, we were heavily restricted from doing anything because of our dog. So many times, we simply sat in the bus and watched families let their children climb all over the protected areas. Sigh.
We went through Custer State Park and, I have to say, it is thoroughly impressive. Great scenic drives, wildlife, plenty of camping, and the crowds are much less than the National Park. You won’t see the same landscape, so this isn’t a substitute. Just make sure you don’t miss this place if you’re in the area.
As we’ve wandered our way across 44 states, we asked folks what to do in North Dakota. We were told to see Teddy Roosevelt NP, but to not expect much; it’s kind of small and there’s nothing you haven’t seen in the bigger, better Badlands. That is a bad assessment. This is, hands-down, one of our favorite National Parks. Part of it is that the crowds are mercifully smaller. But largely, it is because this park is beautiful. And the wildlife is closer than anything we’ve seen yet. Foxes, bison galore, deer, prairie dogs, birds of all feather.