Please obey all warning signs, they are there to protect you and to preserve the park for future visitors.
Animals: All animals in the park are wild. Enjoy them from a distance. Do not feed them, eating items outside their usual diet may make them sick or even kill them. Keep an eye out for animals including rattlesnakes as you tour the park, especially on hiking trails. Black Widow Spiders are also common in the park.
Water: Drink plenty of water so you remain hydrated. Only drink water from trusted sources. Never drink water from streams or other sources backcountry without proper preparation.
Driving: Drive with caution, especially at night as you may encounter wildlife on the roadways.
Collecting or disturbing any wildlife, plants or geological features within the park is illegal.
Stay on Trails: Climbing any cliffs or ledges is prohibited. These ledges can be dangerous because the slick clay and soft sediments can give way resulting in a bad fall. You also damage the ecosystem by leaving the trails.
Weather: The weather can change rapidly in the badlands. Check weather conditions and forecasts before venturing into the backcountry. Extreme temperature changes and sudden violent storms are not uncommon. Be prepared.
If you are staying in one of the main RV and tent established campgrounds, be prepared to obey the following rules.
1) It is illegal to dump any gray or black water on the ground. If you have a camper that drains to the aground, you must have a pail or other container to catch this water. You cannot wash your dishes in the bathrooms or at the outside faucets. You must wash dishes at your site, then carry your wastewater to a disposal facility. These are located in the side door of each campground bathroom.
2) Each campsite has a campfire area. You may only build a fire or use charcoal in these designated fire areas. Once you have a fire going, do not leave your campsite, or go inside your tent or RV unless you have completely put the fire out. Collecting firewood inside the park is against the rules, so bring your own firewood with you.
3) Quite hours are from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM. Generators, however, can only be used from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, and you must have a muffler to minimize the noise.
4) Pets are allowed in the Cottonwood and Juniper campgrounds, but they must be kept on a leash, or retrained in some other manner. If you are using a leash or rope, it cannot be longer than 6 feet. If you take a hike, pets are not allowed on the trails or in the backcountry. You are expected to clean up after your pet. Do not tie your dog or cat up outside of your RV and leave him unattended. You may not realize it, but unattended dogs may become frightened, and howl or otherwise disturb other campers.
5) All vehicles and bicycles can only be used on paved or gravel-surfaced roads. This includes motorcycles and other motorbikes. Never park or drive on the grass or trails. Within the campgrounds obey the 15-mile per hour speed limit at all times.
6) Do not feed, or disturb any of the wildlife, including birds. And remember that all natural wildlife and animals are protected within the park, as are all geological objects. You may not harass, or take any object, animal, bird, or animal part from the park. You may not deface any park facilities or natural features.
7) No firearms, bows, arrows, slingshots, air guns, or any other weapon is allowed within the park. Fireworks are also not permitted.
8) Horses are not allowed in Cottonwood and Juniper campgrounds.
9) Setting up objects such as badminton nets or horseshoes is not allowed. Do not tie clotheslines or anything else to trees.
1) All people wishing to camp overnight in the backcountry MUST register and obtain a free backcountry use permit. This is not only for the park’s information, but also for your safety. If you follow your trip plan, this will provide information that will help rangers find you if there is an emergency, or you become lost. You may register for up to 14 days. You may register at the South or North Unit’s Visitor Centers. When you return, the park staff would like you to stop at the visitor center to let them know you have returned. If it is closed, please tape your permit to the front door.
2) All plants, wildlife, and natural geological materials are protected. Do not disturb or take these. This includes feathers, skulls, antlers, or any other animal part you may find. Hunting and feeding wildlife is against park rules, as is chasing or disturbing the animals in any way.
3) Mountain biking is not permitted in the backcountry, nor is any motorized travel allowed.
4) Open fires are not permitted in the backcountry, so if you are backpacking, be sure to bring a self-contained stove with its own fuel. As a warning here, during high fire danger, even these may not be allowed.
5) What you carry in you must carry out. Leave no trash behind.
6) You cannot camp within ¼ mile of a park road or trailhead, or within 200 feet of any water source. Do not wash your dishes with a detergent in the river, streams, or springs. Have a container that you can fill with water and carry away from the water source for washing.
7) For toilet purposes, dig a shallow hole at least 200 feet from any water source, then bury with dirt.
8) Hikers must move out of the way for horseback riders, and if others are camping in your area, respect their desire for quiet.
9) No more than 10 people can get together for overnight parties in the backcountry. If you are traveling by horseback, this is reduced to 8 people and 8 horses.
10) Outside of horses, no other pets are allowed in the backcountry.
11) No firearms, bow and arrows, or other weapons, including slingshots are allowed in the park.
Along with my previous warnings, there are some additional things to know about backcountry hiking.
First of all, there are no approved safe drink water sources in the backcountry. Even though you will find water sources that are used by wildlife, these are not considered safe for humans. Plan to carry as much of your drinking and cooking water if possible. For additional water, it must be boiled before using.
The climate in the badlands of the park can have extreme temperatures, and violent storms may suddenly appear. Be prepared for a number of conditions. Bring rain gear, and have sun protection, and plenty of safe drinking water. Remember in the summer time the temperatures can be very hot, and you will need extra water during this season. Choose your campsite wisely, sudden rainstorms can cause flash floods in some areas.
Climbing on the steep hills in the badlands can be very dangerous. Since many of these are made up of slippery clays and soft sediments, these may give way as you climb them. You will be a lot safer if you stay on the backcountry trails. And remember, if you are going to scramble up a steep slope, not only do you need to watch your footing, but also your hands. Don’t reach up and place hands in a place you cannot see. There could be a rattlesnake resting there.
Be sure that you have a good understanding of your planned route. Although there are backcountry trails, there are also a lot of wildlife trails that often cross these trails, and can cause confusion. Purchase a park topographic map at one of the visitor centers, and carry a compass. I good GPS can also be very valuable. It is smart to leave a trip plan with someone, so if you get lost and do not come out of the park at the planned time, they can call the park and notify a ranger that you are over due.
Most of the year the Little Missouri River and the streams flowing into it can be waded, however high water levels, especially in the spring and early summer can make this dangerous. Even when the water levels are low, be careful as the bottoms are soft, and there can be hidden deep channels or holes. If the water is not clear enough to see the bottom, use a walking stick to feel ahead of you for holes, as well to help you with your balance. I recommend that you ask the staff at one of the visitor centers to find out where the best crossing areas are, as well as what the current fording conditions are.
Bison can weight 2,000 pounds, and although they may look slow, they can run at speeds of up to 35 miles per hours, and a distance of over a mile. They can outlast a racehorse, so you are not going to outrun a bison. The bison that you see in Roosevelt are wild animals, very unpredictable, and dangerous. If disturbed, they may attack, so do not approach them for any reason. I live near Yellowstone National Park, and the rule there is to stay at least 25 yards away from bison.
Prairie Dogs are cute and interesting, but they can give you a sharp bite. For their health and your safety do not try to feed them. Also, do not poke around in their burrows. Rattlesnakes and black widow spiders often live in these holes. Also, although rattlesnakes usually give a warning, this is not always true, so keep your eyes open while walking the trails, or hiking the backcountry.
Drive carefully. You never know when you come around one of the park’s curves, what kind of wildlife may be standing on the road.
Be aware that there is poison ivy growing in the woodland areas, and in late spring and early summer there are also ticks in the woods. Poison Ivy is a three-leaf plant that has very shiny leaves, so when walking through the woodlands watch for it. Be sure that during tick season you check yourself carefully if you have been walking in the woods.
This is a little too close for comfort even though I was in a Ford Explorer SUV. This bull was a little angry and kept coming at us. If I hadn't pulled away, I believe he may have given the vehicle a good head butt.
Prior to our trip, we read about a man who was killed by a buffalo in Soth Dakota's Black Hills. Buffalo kill people each year and may be more dangerous than grizzly bears. People seem to think they are no more dangerous than cows--but these animals weigh in at 2000 lbs for an adult male. And they can hook those horns into vital organs.
A buffalo is not an animal to take lightly. If you are on foot do not try to move closer. If you are in a vehicle and they approach--move away.
Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers