A study in contrast: From the Badlands to the Black Hills

 A study in contrast: From the Badlands to the Black Hills
South Dakotas range land

sunbadlandsIt's pretty amazing what a few hundred miles can do to the view. That was driven home to us today as we made our way across South Dakota taking in the vast green prairie and its lush grasslands, the wind carved canyons, ravines and hoodoos of the Badlands and the rolling thick pine forests of the Black Hills.

I'd send along a video but I'm barely able to get a cell signal from our camping spot in the Custer State Park.

Stockade Lake in the Custer Stete Forest

It was like a movie playing on the other side of the Roadtrek's windshield as we headed out I-90 from Mitchell, taking the bypass through the Badlands National Park and a great two lane to Rapid City and then south to Custer.

Storms swept across the prairie mid-afternoon and I pulled into a rest area to watch the lightning and rainclouds under the big sky. The drumming rain on the RV roof was so soothing Jennifer and I stretched out on the rear bed and slept for an hour. When we woke, the sun was out again.

The Custer State Park consistently ranks as one of America's best state parks and we were impressed by the roomy, secluded spot we got, just a couple hundred yards from Stockade Lake.

Our Campsite at Custer State Park

Tomorrow, we'll do the wildlife loop drive to check out the Bison, Bighorn Sheep, Pronghorn Antelope and Elk that inhabit this vast 71,000-acre park.

Jennifer is a little miffed at me tonight. We hiked up and down several hills to get to the lake and grabbed armfuls of fallen pine branches for our campfire. When we returned to camp she started browsing through the park brochure, only to find out that the park has lots of ticks and plenty of timber rattlesnakes.

My traipsing in the thick woods with shorts instead of long pants probably wasn't one of my brighter ideas. Jennifer had the good sense to put on a pair of jeans.

But the clean smell of the forest, the sound of the wind rustling through the pines and the bright stars overhead tonight will hopefully make her forget my foolhardy exuberance.

Unless I start itching from a tick bite.


Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.


  • Looking forward to hearing about the Wildlife Loop. We’ve done that road several times and ALWAYS see lots! We’ve heard the ticks are very bad everywhere.

  • I’m loving you comments regarding South Dakota. I’m trying to convince my husband and my 2 brothers and their wives to take an RV trip to that area next year and your comments and pics should help convince them.

  • if you ever get a chance, read a book called Great Plains by Ian Frazier. best book i’ve ever read on the subject. he talks about driving out of glacier national park onto the plains, and the amazing transformation as the hills fall away to nothingness.

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