Exploring National Parks in South Dakota

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)– South Dakota is home to six different national parks showcasing the state’s beauty to visitors from around the world.

As of Thursday, National Parks across the state have already seen 198,350 visitors this year, which is higher than the 162,715 reported last year, according to data in the South Dakota Tourism dashboard, provided by The National Park Service.

April 17 through 25 is National Park Week so we’re highlighting the National Parks you can visit in South Dakota.


Badlands National Park

One of the most well-known national parks in the state is Badlands National Park, which features a maze of buttes, canyons, pinnacles and spires.

This park consists of 244,000 acres of mixed-grass prairie with wildlife such as bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets roam and live.

Badlands National Park has a 75-million-year-old fossil record and archeological finds dating back 12,000 years. Some of the skeletons found at the park include three-toed horses and saber-toothed cats.

In 2020, the park saw 20,124 visitors. So far, the park has had 26,249 visitors this year.


Jewel Cave National Monument

The third longest cave in the world, Jewel Cave National Monument, is a South Dakota attraction for visitors with a variety of cave tours below the ground and a 1,279-acre park with nature trails throughout the forest above.

The “jewels” lining the walls of the cave include calcite crystals, know as nailhead and dogtooth spar, as well as formations of boxwork, cave popcorn, flowstone and long ribbon drapery know as “cave bacon.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cave tours have been suspended until further notice, however, there are still lots of things for visitors to do including the quarter mile Roof Trail and the Canyons Trail, as well as view the recently introduced Bighorn Sheep in the Historic Area.

So far, the cave has seen 448 visitors in 2021, compared to 326 in 2020.


Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site located in Phillip, South Dakota, is the only remaining nuclear missile field.

This site illustrates the history and significance of the Cold War and arms race. The park consists of two different sites, a Launch Control Facility (Delta-01) and a missile silo complex (Delta-09). It also has 150 Minuteman II Missiles, 15 launch control centers and covers over 13,500 square miles of southwestern South Dakota.

The missile site saw 65,718 visitors in 2020 and this year, so far, there have been 84,454.


Missouri National Recreational River

100 miles. That is the stretch of North America’s longest river that flows through the state of South Dakota.

Two free flowing stretches of the Missouri River make up the National Park, an area to explore the wild, untamed and mighty river.

The National Park Service reported that the park has seen 13,226 visitors so far in 2021 compared to 8,845 in 2020.


Mount Rushmore National Memorial

One of the most notable tourist attractions in South Dakota is Mount Rushmore National Memorial, which features the 60-foot faces of four American presidents: Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson created by Gutzon Borglum, with help from his son Lincoln Borglum.

The park also includes a half-mile walking trail, museum, gift shop and dining room.

In 2020, Mt. Rushmore saw 42,374 visitors and in 2021, it has seen 48,297 visitors.


Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park was the first cave to be designated as a national park and features the world’s largest concentration of rare boxwork formations, along with 33,970 acres of forest and prairie on the surface. This serves as a natural sanctuary for wildlife.

The park also includes hiking trails, where hikers can experience the beauty and wildlife of the area.

In 2020, 25,328 visitors were able to experience Wind Cave National Park. To date, the park has seen 25,676 visitors this year.

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