Our time at the Ingalls homestead in South Dakota was over, but there were more Ingalls sites awaiting us later! We planned a few other important educational stops and a visit with family while we were on the road.
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is a missile launching facility from the Cold War. There were over a dozen of these sites that controlled hundreds of missiles in South Dakota during the time of our instability with Russia. This historic site lets visitors visit one of these underground control centers. Unfortunately, the tours book up fast and we missed our opportunity to get a tour for the rest of the day we were in the area. Instead, we toured the visitors center’s small museum and watched the film to learn as much about the sites, the political situation and the dismantling of the entire program in the 1990’s. My son was enthralled and I was so sad that we couldn’t get on a tour for the entire day, but we made the best of it and completed the children’s Junior Ranger books and they received their badge.
Prairie dog city was not far from the Missileman NHS and we had to stop to see these cute little critters. You can buy peanuts from the shop and feed the little cuties. Just make sure you do not touch any of the animals. We saw lots of foolish people grabbing at them and believe it or not, these guys carry the Bubonic Plague. The Plague is tearing it’s way through the prairie dog population across the west and mid-west and humans catch it every single year by acting like wild animals are tame. Don’t be so stupid.
We made our way to the entrance of Badlands National Park. This was my Mom’s first chance to buy her Senior Golden Pass for $10. This pass gets her as well as everyone in the vehicle into all the National Parks for free for the rest of her life. What a deal!
We entered the park and saw lots of cars parked at a rock formation and people were climbing. We couldn’t miss the opportunity to join in on the fun! We did a little climbing, but I was nervous letting the kids get too far up. The formations are very gravely and as your foot tries to find solid ground it slides. It was a lot of fun though and we really enjoyed getting up close and personal with the rocks.
As we drove around the loop, we saw big horn sheep relaxing and lots of beautiful rock formations. We headed to our hotel and took a swim in the pool. (Actually I think I took a nap and my Mom took the kids to the pool!)
After breakfast the next morning we headed to the Badlands to learn about the formations and the animals that live there. We took some time at the visitors center, completed the children’s Jr. Ranger books and attended a Ranger program. Many Ranger programs are offered free of charge to children and this one was amazing where the children got to learn about and touch pelts, antlers and bones of the animals that live at Badlands NP. They received a patch upon completion of the 1/2 hour session.
Next we had the chance to look through high powered telescopes and look at the surface of the sun. A few of the National Parks offer Astronomer Junior Ranger badges, including Badlands NP, but we were not able to complete the program in the amount of time we had available. There’s always next time!
Another program being offered for free was a neat planetarium show. A portable, blow-up planetarium had been constructed in a building behind the visitors center and gave us a private showing. Talk about learning opportunity! The children were allowed to ask as many questions as they could think of about our solar system and space.
We continued to take advantage of the learning opportunities here by watching a group of paleontologists uncover a fossil right in front of our eyes. We learned how they use tiny drills to uncover the bone, bit by bit. They discuss and learn from each other the best way to approach the bone before each new step. It was facinating for both the children and adults.
We finally left the visitor’s center to explore the park a bit more. We loved the rock formations and exploring them on foot. The Badlands taught us so much! I love the National Parks system!!
Road Trip – Day 7 & 8
Driving Time – 4 1/4 hours, 0 hours
Accommodations – Econo Lodge Wall, Wall, SD, outdoor pool, continental breakfast
Cost – $108/night
Do-over wish list – This hotel was by far the worst we stayed at. The rooms did not feel clean and I was not comfortable here. The pool was clean and the breakfast area seemed okay too.