I have visited a lot of parks on my trip out west, and in a lot of those parks were prairie dogs. A lot of prairie dogs were in those parks. I have to admit that I couldn’t get enough of them. They are just so cute. Here is a collection of photos of prairie dogs from several different parks.
From the Black Hills area, I traveled north to North Dakota to go to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is classic badlands. The coloration of the sedimentary layers are less colorful than Badlands National Park, but Theodore Roosevelt National Park has some unexpected beautiful green areas in the middle of it. It also has some gorgeous views of the Little Missouri River.
I have said it before, and I will say it again, the Black Hills are gorgeous. I have posted some of my photos in their respective blog posts: Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, 1880 Train ride, Crazy Horse and Mt. Rushmore, and Deadwood. Here are just a few more photos that didn’t fit anywhere because they weren’t in any particular park. Of particular note are three tunnels on US 16A that were made by tunneling straight through the rock for only the small amount needed for a (single) car to go through. That in itself is an engineering feat, considering when they were built, but also they were built to frame Mt. Rushmore. It is not easy to see in the photo, but with all three, depending on the direction you are driving, you can see Mt. Rushmore, and it is really neat. Consider also the crazy route that the road had to take to get to those exact angles to frame Mt. Rushmore.
As I was driving from the Rapid City area up to North Dakota, a storm was coming through. I was lucky in that I only went through a little bit of rain. I was also lucky because I had decided to take entirely back roads. (Of course in truth, almost all roads in the area I was in was a back road.) There was almost no one else on the road, so I could occasionally stop and take photos of the storms. I also lucked out because there were numerous sunflower farms, which made for very nice foregrounds. Anyway, here are a few of the photos.
Mostly I use this blog to share my photos. Sometimes I use it to explain something. Right now I need to rant perhaps a little about something I saw at Custer State Park. There is a lot of wildlife there, which of course is one of the reasons that people visit it. When you enter the park, there are signs warning you that buffalo are dangerous and don’t approach them. I know I saw at least one sign that said don’t feed the wildlife. On the park’s website, it says don’t feed the wildlife. Yesterday, close to sunset, I was driving on the wildlife loop and saw donkeys eating in the grasslands. I pulled over to park, and there was a family out of their car feeding a donkey right next to their car. The donkey was clearly friendly and used to humans, but it was not in a harness, and it was a park. I knew it was wrong to feed the donkey as sweet as it appeared to be. The man was letting his young daughter feed the donkey, and the donkey was practically eating out of her hand. I was worried, perhaps overly so, that the girl might accidentally get bitten. [It doesn’t matter how sweet the animal, even with horses and dogs, there is a right way and wrong way to give an animal food from your hand to make sure you are not accidentally bitten.] I finally said something to the man. I said you are not supposed to feed the wildlife. He said I know. I said this is a state park. He said I know. He clearly didn’t care. They left soon after, and others came to park and see the donkeys. A women in another car brought them carrots and celery. The donkeys came up to the car windows. The women got out to feed them. Two other donkeys approached seeing how this one donkey was being fed from two different sets of people. The woman who brought the carrots and celery finally threw the vegetables at the donkeys and ran away because the donkeys kept trying to eat from her hand. Then the donkeys went car to car trying to get food. I initially had been outside my car taking photos of the donkeys in the field. I had to retreat to car after the donkeys kept going to everyone. I wasn’t afraid of the donkeys, but I was not going to give them anything, and I didn’t think I should be interacting with them at all.
Basic rule of thumb is don’t feed the wildlife. Unless there is a park ranger standing near you stating you can feed whichever particular wildlife and here is what to feed them, then don’t feed the wildlife. I don’t know why there are donkeys in a state park. I don’t even know if they are truly wild or maybe just feral or really domestic and somehow ended up in the park. I do know the park information says don’t feed the wildlife and no exclusion is stated for the donkeys. Animals that are fed start to depend on humans for food and don’t forage properly. You may not be feeding them proper food either. It may not be good for them. It may not have the proper nutrients, and then because they don’t forage, they don’t get proper nutrients. It is like people feeding bread to ducks. Bread is not actually all that nutritious for ducks. You could get accidentally hurt. The animal could get hurt. Think of those donkeys going right up to the cars. You think they are more likely to get hit by a car because they think cars mean food? Diseases can be spread to or from the animal.
It is really simple. Don’t feed the animals.
I saw and photographed quite a few bison while at Custer State Park, so I wanted to share some more photos in a separate blog post of just them. The first four photographs are of the same bison, who rather enjoys rolling around in the dirt.
I am probably prone to superlatives on my blog, but Custer State Park is, in fact, stunningly gorgeous. It has lovely grasslands where you can find bison, prairie dogs, and donkeys and probably others. Those are the ones I saw. I have to also admit that I am a little sketchy on wild donkeys being in a park, but I digress. The park also has the granite peaks and spires that make the Black Hills so famous. There is a manmade lake called Sylvan Lake that has the granite spires lining it and popping out of it. There is Needles Highway, which is an engineering feat of wonder, where you drive around the granite spires and in two cases drive through them in the most ridiculous small, just cut out the exact space needed for a car, tunnels. There is the Wildlife Loop where you can see the wildlife and just take in the gorgeous grasslands. My photos probably don’t do it justice, but if you are ever in the area, make time and go to this park.
This morning I visited Wind Cave National Park. On the surface, the park looks like much of same lovely grassland as the surrounding area. Underground, however, lies a huge cave system filled with gorgeous formations. The cave is famous for its boxwork formations and has most of the known boxwork in the world. You can take tours of a small portion of the cave, enough to get a glimpse of the gorgeous boxwork.
For my trip out west, I wanted to visit many sites that were kind of in the middle of nowhere. Devil’s Tower fits in that category. I don’t think photos can do it justice. As I was driving to it, the road I was on curved, and then Devil’s Tower just appeared. That is what is so amazing about it. The area around it is pretty rolling countryside with some of the black hills, but then this columnar rock tower just appears. The trail to walk around it is a little over a mile, and even while walking that trail, I still was amazed by its size and how much it stuck out of the surrounding countryside. There are exhibits on the trail that give good visuals to describe how it formed. Still I find it awesome.
After visiting Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, I then drove on to Badlands National Park, which is right across the freeway. Badlands is just gorgeous. The formations are dramatic. In many places you can clearly see the different sedimentation layers, including different coloring of the layers. The different coloring layers adds to the drama and beauty of the landscape. When I was there, it was a clear blue sky, which contrasted with the landscape coloring. It was fun to photograph. There were no bad angles, only trying to figure out the best way to capture the beauty, even though no photograph can.