Badlands Wilderness

Coyotes, bighorn sheep, mixed-grass prairies and fossil-filled canyons

A vivid sunset in this idyllic landscape © Radius Images/Corbis
Eroded canyon walls and dry river bed in Badlands Wilderness © Paul Souders/Corbis
The cracked landscape of the Badlands © Radius Images/Corbis
Fauna on the plains of Badlands Wilderness Area © Bryan Mullennix/Tetra Images/Corbis
Badlands Wilderness Area © Philippe Widling/Design Pics/Design Pics/Corbis

Location: South Dakota
Size: 64,144 acres
Year Designated: 1976
Fast Fact: The Badlands Wilderness represents the largest undisturbed mixed-prairie rangeland remaining in the United States.

The Badlands Wilderness Area in South Dakota is the largest example of mixed-prairie wildland left in the United States. Within the Badlands Wilderness, bison roam the prairie as they have done for centuries, alongside deer, rattlesnakes, coyotes and longhorn sheep. But millions of years ago, a different set of animals roamed throughout the marshy jungle that covered the area: sabertooth cats, turtles as large as cars and tiny camels all once called this area home. As these ancient animals died out, their bones were buried under layers of mud, only to be uncovered years later by pioneers making their way west through South Dakota’s prairie lands. Thanks to wind and weather, the area erodes at a rate of one percent per year, making the Badlands a constantly transforming landscape of cliffs, canyons and mesas.

Get the latest Travel & Culture stories in your inbox.