The Badlands National Park was only about 100 miles from Rapid City so we took our time getting on the road. Of course, we had to stop at the famous "Wall Drug." The founder graduated from pharmacy school in 1929 and wanted to live in a small town with a catholic church. Since his father recently had died and left him $3000, he thought this would be the time for him to open up his pharmacy. They found Wall and decided that is where they would settle down and buy the pharmacy. At first, they didn't have very many people stopping by in this prairie town, but he and his wife decided to give it five years to see if they could make it. They thought that when Mount Rushmore was completed that they would have more traffic through the town. They were right. They put signs up on the highway offering free ice water and the tourists began rolling in. Today, the town of Wall situated on the edge of the Badlands, has accomodations for 2000 guests but still looks like an old fashioned western town (with parking lots, of course.) Wall Drug takes up 2/3rds of it with all of its souvenier shops and cafes and even a travelers chapel. It does still have the original soda fountain with its marble counter tops and is rather a charming section of this now expansive enterprise.
We continued on our journey and after a brief stop at the Badlands National Park Visitor Center, we arrived at the KOA in Interior which is just outside the Park.
We were originally going to stay here for 2 nights and once we got a better feel for the area, we decided we could tour it for the rest of the day and see pretty much what we wanted to. It was still hot..high 90s to low 100s and so we were not going to do much hiking here. A car tour would have to do.
The Badlands as part of the Great Plains was covered with a shallow sea albeit 75 million years ago. As a result, there are fossils from the sea creatures of yesteryear in the bottom grayish-black sedimentary layer rock which is called Pierre shale. The fossils found both in and just outside the park range from clams, crabs and snails to ancient fish and giant marine lizards as well as diving bird akin to the modern loon. Other types of fossils are from 23 to 35 million years ago and they were the land animals that inhabited the savannah and are similar to the small deer, goat, and wild cats that exist now. We were not sure what to expect in the Badlands, but we were surprised to learn about these fossils here and to see the terrain that we did. The rock formations of peaks, gulllies and buttes were foreboding in their austerity. Some of them looked like huge sand dunes and others were more like mounds of soft earth. There was a sense of calm as we drove the scenic loop and stopped at the overlooks. It really is other worldly here. I think that the paleontologist Thaddeus Culbertson nailed it when he said, "Fancy yourself on the hottest day in summer in the hottest spot of such a place without water-without an animal and scarce an insect astir-without a single flower to speak pleasant things to you and you will have some idea of the utter loneliness of the Bad Lands." We concur.
We drove through what we think was the town of Interior, population 94 and is 1.3 square miles. We found an old school built in 1939 and still used today in some capacity. It's quite large so we think it is a regional school and perhaps has all classes in it. It has air conditioners sticking out of the sides of the building so you know there is no central air. With the temperatures still so high I'm not sure how they will handle the start of the school year in this outdated building. We didn't find much else in the nearby vicinity except for a very old and falling down gas station/store and an old jail which we are sure is currently out of service. Maybe we shouldn't be so sure!