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COMMENTS BY KIM: Return to the Badlands

Shame on me. It had been more than a year since I had visited the Badlands of western North Dakota when I made a trip there last week. It was like visiting an old friend.

With all that is going on throughout the United States, pandemic and rioting and politics and fractured news reporting, it was refreshing and reassuring to step away from it all in a place virtually isolated from the rest of the world. For me, and most certainly others as well, a Badlands visit is a perfect prescription. The pressing issues of the day fade quickly when surrounded by magnificent scenery and abundant wildlife.

The air was amazingly fresh. The leaves and grasses incredibly green thanks to abundant rainfall. Mule deer in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park were enjoying the lush vegetation and more than willing to pose for the camera. Buffalo too. The slumping buttes and junipers and sage brush seemed to glow in the morning sun. It felt so good to be there. I know others experience the same thing.

The North Unit has always been my favorite place to visit in this state. There are many other wonderful places of course, but it is the Badlands terrain and all the nature that goes with it than I find irresistible. Maybe I don’t even understand all the reasons why, but I’m okay with that.

So much about the Badlands defies description anyway and beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Every visit is different.

Visitation to the North Unit increased during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic and, from what I have learned, probably remains ahead of previous years as a growing number of people have turned to the park for relief during trying times. Still though, the North Unit remains one of the least visited National Parks in the United States. Visitors don’t have to interact with crowds of people. It is social distancing at its best.

Just to the south of the entrance to the park a new bridge is being built across the Little Missouri River that was often a subject in the writings of Teddy Roosevelt. Off the south end of the bridge workers are finishing up a wildlife underpass, the first of its kind in the state. It will allow for animals, large and small, to cross from one side of Highway 85 to the other without contending with traffic and endangering drivers.

According to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, which has remote cameras installed at the location, deer, moose and other animals are already using the underpass. That’s good stuff. Good for motorists and good for wildlife. Nothing wrong with that.

The best time for viewing wildlife is the first few hours and last few hours of sunlight. In the Badlands though, there’s always impressive scenery and constantly changing shadows that bring the landscape to life anytime during the day. Give it a try. It never disappoints. Never.

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