Located in southwestern South Dakota, Badlands National Park consists of nearly 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires blended with the largest protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. The Badlands Wilderness Area is made up of 64,000 acres and is the site of the reintroduction of the Black-footed Ferret, the most endangered land mammal in North America. The Stronghold Unit is co-managed with the Oglala Sioux Tribe and includes sites of 1890s Ghost Dances. Established as Badlands National Monument in 1939, the area was redesignated "National Park" in 1978. Over 11,000 years of human history pale next to the ages-old paleontological resources. Badlands National Park contains the world's richest Oligocene epoch fossil beds, which 23 to 35 million years old. The evolution of mammal species such as the horse, sheep, rhinoceros and pig can be studied in the Badlands formations.
Badlands National Park's 30-mile Loop Drive (a paved, two-lane road) is accessible from Interstate 90. From the Loop Road, visitors can take a ten-mile round-trip drive on an unpaved road to Roberts Prairie Dog Town, the largest easily accessed prairie dog town in the park. The 30 mile Sage Creek Rim Road is gravel and may be impassable after heavy rain or snow. Five trails, varying from one-quarter mile to eight miles in length, enable walkers to explore many park features. The remainder of the park is open to exploration to those using a topographic map and a compass.
The Sharp-tailed Grouse is a common bird of the Badlands. The male has a purple neck patch and a yellow comb over its eye that it displays to a female when courting. Sharp-tails, like prairie-chickens and Sage Grouse, perform elaborate courtship displays on communal mating grounds called leks, to which they return faithfully every year.
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