The Black Hills of South Dakota

Natural History

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Home to five national parks, few vacation destinations are more versatile than the Black Hills of South Dakota. The Black Hills are a great place to see geology and paleontology up close.

Overview

Rapid City, South Dakota

Home to five national parks, few vacation destinations are more versatile than the Black Hills of South Dakota. And few landscapes on earth provide a better glimpse into the forces that formed the earth as we know it, before, during, and after Noah´s Flood. The Black Hills are a great place to see geology and paleontology up close.

Badlands National Park is a great place to start your tour, with spectacular rock formations and post-Flood sedimentary deposits, as well as paleontology digs in progress. Driving and hiking tours are available. Another place to visit is the Black Hills Museum of Natural History, home to a large collection of fossils and dinosaur displays. Or visit the Museum of Geology, on the campus of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Although small, the museum contains a very impressive collection of fossils and minerals.

Driving tours through the Black Hills are a wonderful way to see geology close-up, or try hiking the numerous trails of the Black Hills National Forest. You can also tour one of the many area caves, or see mammoths and other fossils "in situ" at the Mammoth Site, an active dig site in nearby Hot Springs.

If you´re a history and geology buff, the Black Hills offer a number of historical sites, including mines where you can pan for gold, and numerous local history museums. Take a trail ride on horseback and experience the Old West.

However you decide to spend your time, the Black Hills of South Dakota have something for everyone in your family. The Bible´s past is sure to come to life as you learn more about the fossils left behind, many from the Flood that once covered the earth.

Points of Interest

Badlands National Park

With its exotic rock formations, numerous fossils, and wonderful hiking trails, Badlands National Park is a great way to experience Flood geology up close. You'll want to make sure to have reviewed some creationist resources on this topic to make the most of your trip. The park is home to indigenous prairie wildlife, including bison, deer, coyotes, and eagles. There are hiking and exploration trails ranging from easy to very rugged. Be sure to stop by the visitor center for an introductory tour (be ready to counter the evolutionary timeframe with your family later), and check the schedule for daily activities.

Bison

Black Hills Museum of Natural History

The Black Hills Museum of Natural History in Hill City, South Dakota, is a treasure trove of fossils and mineral samples, including dinosaurs, marine animals, mammals, fish, trilobites, and plants, and is home to Stan, a remarkably complete T. rex. Great for an afternoon outing, or a full day of more intense study.

Stan

Museum of Geology

Located on the campus of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota, the Museum of Geology has an impressive collection of local fossils, rocks, and minerals, including florescent minerals, local agates, and gold, making this an ideal stop for the lapidary enthusiast, as well as paleontology buffs. Look for opportunities to discuss with your family the facts of the fossils versus the interpretations of the evidence. Admission to the museum is free.

Fossil

By Raymond Bucko, SJ from Omaha, NE, USA, via Wikimedia Commons

Additional Resources

Faith, Reason, and Earth History by Leonard Brand

Helpful Tips

  • There are a number of websites you can visit to help plan your trip. A good place to start would be www.visitrapidcity.com or www.blackhillsbadlands.com.
  • The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally—one of the largest in the country—takes place the first week of August. If your visit coincides, you might want to call well in advance for accommodations.
  • Don´t miss the world-famous Wall Drug Store—considered the number one roadside attraction in America. Acres of shopping, dining, and attractions.
  • Kids getting bored with museums? Take them to a water park, or a drive-through animal reserve. They´ll love it!
  • Be sure to check out the Crazy Horse Memorial, still a work in progress after 60 years. When finished, it will be the largest sculpture in the world.
  • Don´t even think of visiting the Black Hills without seeing Mount Rushmore—one of the most iconic images of America! If you like crowds, plan your trip to see the July 3rd fireworks display, one of the top-rated displays in the country.
  • South Dakota can be very cold, and it can snow from September to May! If you will be traveling during that time, pack accordingly. June and July offer the best weather. Even if you´re traveling in the summer, bring a jacket for evenings.
  • The Black Hills have something for everyone. Do your homework before you go, and plan your trip to make the most of the area´s many attractions.
  • Don´t want to stay in a boring old hotel room? Badlands National Park offers rustic campsite facilities (no campfires, hook-ups, or showers) and lodge rooms.
  • Look but don´t touch! Removing or disturbing the fossils and minerals in Badlands National Park is a crime, punishable by fines or imprisonment.

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