Badlands National Park Artist Residency: Thoughts on Ways to Support the Interpretive Staff
Invoking the Tactile Senses at Badlands National Park

Arriving at Bandlands National Park



On, Sept. 16, 2013, The clouds began to lift as I entered Badlands National Park.  Mid-70's - ah… Pretty full of myself too - feeling proud for being selected for the role and anticipating a teaching gig well within my comfort zone.  My contacts at the park service, Cathy and Julie, gave me a warm welcome.  I introduced myself to last spring's artist-in-residence, Judy Thompson, a dear person and artist of highly appealing watercolors.  She was there as a consultant.  The housing was clean and very comfortable.    My dear roommate, Lainey, a recent paleontology grad, was finishing her seasonal work assignment. Let's just say I eased in with alacrity.   Little did I know what was in store for me…  that my time at Badlands NP was every bit what any adventure should be.

The park encompasses 244,000 acres in southwestern South Dakota.  It is known for its fossil resources (of way-cool mammals but no dinosaurs), an alien-planet style landscape of eroded mounds and buttes, and a mixed-grass prairie ecosystem where the buffalo (bison) roam.

The landscape at Badlands National Park was formed through  deposition and erosion. The sedimentation we see in the Badlands formations began some 69 million years ago when a great inland sea covered the area.  Uplift to the west encouraged rivers to carve down into the sedimentary rock layers in the last half a million years.  The rocky divide where waters flow to either the White or Bad Rivers forms a backbone 100 miles long called the "Wall".  The nearby town of Wall gets its name from this feature.

Badlands National Park is pretty spread out and, as many national parks, quite remote.  Exit 131 from I-90 takes you 7 miles, past the Minuteman National Historic Site, a Prairie Homestead, and then to the northeast entrance.  Here you find the visitor center, housing, main campground, and lodge. Two miles down the road is the town of Interior, South Dakota.

Interior sign

As you can see by the sign, Interior has had an interesting history.   

My first buddy in Interior was, Sue, proprietress of Cowboy Corner (CC). Here I was welcomed into the community with a home-style lunch. I also learned from Sue's employee, Joe, that he relocated from Michigan because the folks are so friendly in Interior.  CC is an eclectic business conglomerate containing a gas station, casino, used book library, an eating area, and grab-n-go grocery stop.  Sue makes homemade lunches weekdays, chicken-fried steak Friday evenings, and prime rib on Saturday evenings. Park employees and locals alike gather daily with everyone sharing tables, and news.

Badlands Cowboy Corner:

Cowboy corners


Next a brief tour of Interior: 

1.  The old jail - ain't no bad guys get'n me!

Interior jail


2.  Infrastructure

Water system


3.  Central Business District.  With my back to Badlands Grocery Store / Post Office, I caught a view of the central business district.


Central business district


4. School.  I took a gander at the elementary school where I planned to teach 3 sessions to each age level.  46 students in all. Yes, I was ready.