PIERRE, S.D. – Ages-old landscapes, artifacts and culture await visitors in Jackson County, partially located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Jackson County communities include Belvidere, Interior, Kadoka, Long Valley and Wanblee.
Jackson County is the gateway to Badlands National Park. This striking, moon-like landscape rises mysteriously from the surrounding prairie. When the Lakota first encountered these unusual formations, they called them Mako Sica or “bad land.” Badlands National Park covers 244,000 acres and contains one of the world's richest deposits of fossils from the Oligocene Epoch.
The Badlands are a geological wonder featuring a maze of buttes, canyons and gullies formed by millions of years of erosion. The unusual rock formations are home to wildlife such as coyotes, mule deer, pronghorn, jackrabbits and bison. Visitors can explore the Badlands on ranger-guided tours, or they can venture off the trail into the Sage Creek Wilderness Area, where the only path is made by the tread of bison.
While touring the Badlands, visitors may stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Located at the park’s headquarters, the center re-opened in 2006 with new exhibits, an air conditioned theater and new park film. Visitors also may stop at the White River Visitor Center on Highway 27 in neighboring Shannon County. The White River Visitor Center is operated by the Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority and offers a staffed information desk, park orientation movie and exhibits.
Just before entering Badlands National Park, visitors will find the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Headquarters are located on the south side of Exit 131 off Interstate 90. At the launch control facility west of the headquarters, visitors will find remnants of the Cold War, including an underground launch control center and a missile silo. Due to space limitations, reservations are recommended. Tours during the summer season (Memorial Day to Labor Day) are available twice daily, Monday through Friday at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
The Uniquely South Dakota series is a project of the South Dakota Office of Tourism designed to highlight unique aspects and attractions in each of South Dakota's 66 counties. This profile was researched and compiled by Wanda Romkema, Media & Public Relations Manager for the Office of Tourism.
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