We headed out early to start at Badlands National Park from the west. We were hoping to see some wildlife and were not disappointed, despite the extremely high winds. We worked our way thorough the park, doing all the short hikes and stopping at all the overlooks except the ones visited did two days ago. Afterwards, we drove west to check out the Delta-09 site, part of the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.
Badlands National Park
We started out on the unpaved Sage Creek Road drove eastwards until reaching the visitor center before heading north to exit the park.
Sage Creek Basin Overlook
Our first stop was the Sage Creek Basin Overlook. It was rather windy and the sky was a bit dark, not really great conditions for landscape scenery viewing. This area of the park consists of rolling hills with the badlands formations in the distance.
Sage Creek Road is a good place to go for wildlife viewing. This is the reason why we decided to start the day in this part of the park as morning tends to be better than mid-day. While there are sometimes large herds of bison moving together, today we saw just a few here and there. They were doing what bison do – eating grass!
Badlands Wilderness Overlook
A few miles down the road, the badlands begin!
Hay Butte Overlook
The Pinnacles Overlook consists of a parking lot and the actual overlook below it, connected by stairs. As we approached the stairs, besides the landscape in front of us, we noticed these two bighorn sheep! A female and a juvenile! They didn’t care at all that we were present,they just slowly walked up the hill eating grass as they went.
This viewpoint has something unique, a grove of junipers growing on the cliff-side! A rare sight here in the park!
Nearby, we saw a few bison resting on the ground. They didn’t do much, though we did see one rolling around on the ground! Unfortunately, it was over before we could stop and try to get a photo!
Ancient Hunters Overlook
Right before pulling into the Ancient Hunters Overlook, we noticed these bighorn sheep! There appear to be nine of them resting while a tenth was eating grass. We think the ones lying down were sheltering from the strong wind.
This overlook received its name due to the discovery of artifacts indicating the presence of human hunters.
The bighorn sheep picked a rather scenic location to rest! There was even some blue sky!
We stopped at various points to enjoy the view!
Yellow Mounds Overlook
The name of this viewpoint comes from the Yellow Mounds rock layer, very visible from this point!
Conata Basin Overlook
Burns Basin Overlook
When we arrived from the west, there weren’t any badlands nearby. Burns Basin has some of the densest concentrations that we saw in the park!
We saw these pronghorn nearby! Unfortunately they were very far away and were moving away from us. They eventually ran away into the distance.
Prairie Wind Overlook
The Prairie Winds Overlook contains a short boardwalk headed into the prairie. Signs describe how the American midwest was formerly like this but relatively little remains.
One of many overlooks with fantastic panoramic views! But one where I did not actually take a panorama!
We noticed these four male bighorn sheep resting on the side of the road, almost out of view, as we were driving by! These are the only males that we saw today.
Bigfoot Pass Overlook
A bit more color here at Bigfoot Pass. Also rather noticeable is the park road running through the landscape.
White River Valley Overlook
Fossil Exhibit Trail
The Fossil Exhibit Trail is a short loop with signs describing some of the animals that lived here in ancient times. And also some fantastic scenery!
Birds are very noticeable at many of the areas in the park. We heard many of them here along the trail. They were extremely hard to find though! This is a Western Meadowlark, the first time we’ve seen this species!
This Western Meadowlark was singing while perched out in the open!
We also saw one flying above us!
We also saw this Rock Wren moving upwards on a rock formation until it got to the very top.
We also saw a Western Meadowlark singing at the top of a formation!
Another Rock Wren on the side of a formation.
Our final stop was the Window Trail, adjacent to the Door Trail that we hiked two days ago.
The Window Trail is named because the trail ends at a window into the badlands! Quite a view!
A closer look at some of the formations visible from the end of the trail.
We also were able to see hikers on the Door Trail, the trail through the badlands terrain that we hiked two days ago.
Plenty of fantastic views from the trail and the parking lot!
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
After leaving the badlands, we drove west along I-90 to visit the Delta-09 site, part of the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. This is one of two remaining Minuteman ICBM sites that remains, the other being the nearby Delta-01 control site. Unfortunately, Delta-01 is closed for maintenance.
The only thing visible above ground is a barbed wire fence and a few small structures. While it was still extremely windy, blue sky could be seen!
The entrance to the site.
A viewing dome has been installed over the missile silo. The operational site would have had a large metal hatch on rails. The hatch is still physically in place but moved to a partially open position.
It was a little hard to see and photograph the missile in the silo due to the glare on the glass from the sun.