CANADA (and the USA) - Badlands and Black Hills - The wonders of Dakota & Wyoming

Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 at 06:00


Tongue River Reserve, Dayton, Wyoming

Friday 17th August 2012

A fantastic days travel through the Black Hills of Dakota making a break from the endless concrete ribbons of the interstates and heading into the prairie badlands, and eventually the rugged mountains. It was a long day but an eventful one with the detours being well worth the extra time on the road.

We got an early start out of Chamberlain clearing the RV park at 7:30 am and filling up at Al's oasis and hitting the I-90 towards Rapid City. It was flat prairie country, predominantly supporting broad acre cattle grazing. Here and there we'd see the odd deer grazing along the roadside. At a rest stop were we're amazed to see a large Dodge Ram 3500 ute with a semi trailer attachment. These guys operate as carriers like any Big Rig semi outfit and are known as "rig runners". Chatting to the driver he had a gross carrying capacity of over 37000lbs. Certainly quite different from the hundreds of trucks thundering passed us each day.

At exit 131 we turned south onto Highway 40 and into the Badlands National Park. "The Wall" as it is known, is a 60 kilometre long boundary cutting through prairie with high walls of eroded earth and rock. The area also contains a rich fossil record. We visited many of the lookouts along the way trying to draw comparisons with land forms back in Australia with little success? It is a country of two distinct plateaus, the higher land ending in a series of canyons and buttes, the earth distinctly banded displaying it’s time worn history as it succumbs to wind and water. We couldn't believe how blasé the local tourists were about warning signs and actually sticking to the walkways and behind the protective barriers. I seems they are only a guide as our fellow visitors seem to ignored them, strolling out onto narrow bridges of crumbling earth to have a photo taken. God knows how many fall off each year!

At the information centre, there was an excellent display of the geological and palaeontological history of the area. Naturally the native history and white colonisation of the area was also "interpreted". After a good look round we headed further into the park, the winding road moving between the upper and lower plateaus through winding passes. The early settlers must have had a hell of a time getting their wagons down onto the lower prairie that's for sure!

Rather than head out back to the I-90 we decided to cruise down the 377 and take the scenic back route (Highway 44) into Rapid City, South Dakota’s second largest city. We had a snappy, shade-less roadside lunch before negotiating our way through RC. Rapid City is a lovely large country town about the size of Bendigo, probably the nicest we've seen so far. Our plan was to stick with the 44 and into the Black Hills towards the historic towns of Deadwood and Lead. The drive was spectacular to say the least with cabins and weekend retreats dotting the road side. On reaching the boundaries of the Black Hills National Forest, spectacular pines and grassy meadows took over as we met the 385 and headed north west.

Then it was the 14 to the old gold mining town of Lead and its deep open cut mine. We took the canyon road out to Spearfish. The drive was magnificent. I run out of superlatives to describe the drive as we followed the stream down a valley surrounded by sheer cliffs and rugged ramparts. At Spearfish, another picturesque little town, we reluctantly hit the I-90 again and steamed west towards the border of Wyoming. We decided to make a late day of it to leave us within striking distance of Yellow Stone National Park tomorrow.

As a result it was long afternoon and evening heading across Wyoming to Moorcroft, Gillette and the Bighorn Hills at Buffalo. What a spectacular backdrop the mountains made, highlighted by purple hues in the setting sun. Amazing stuff that I wish I'd been able to do justice with my camera. We then ran north to Sheridan and west on exit 9 at Ranchester, heading on to Dayton. Locating a camp sign, we secured a spot by the creek in the Tongue River Gorge Recreation Reserve. It was 9:00 pm by that time and we were all pretty stiff after a big day on the road.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
BlogID: 5896
Views: 5540

Comments & Reviews

Post a Comment
Blog Index

Sponsored Links