Badlands topography exists in many of the world’s arid and semi-arid regions, though the evocative name stems specifically from the French moniker for the extensive White River Badlands in southwestern South Dakota. Historically often bemoaned because of the difficulty of traversing their rugged reaches--and sometimes feared for their otherworldy appearance--badlands tracts in the modern day are often tourist attractions. If you aren’t into camping during your explorations, whether in Alberta, Oregon or elsewhere, you can take advantage of hotels in nearby outposts.
One of the world’s great examples of the topographic form, the White River Badlands protected in Badlands National Park center around a long, rugged scarp called the Wall, and are famous for fossils, wildlife, Lakota culture and wilderness. The nearby town of Wall--home to the well-known tourist attraction of Wall Drug--has a number of accommodations, such as the Best Western Plains Motel and a Super 8 Motel. Rapid City, a larger community situated west of the Badlands at the cusp of the Black Hills, has plenty of overnight options, like Travelodge Rapid City.
The badlands around the Little Missouri River and tributaries in western North Dakota that are featured in Theodore Roosevelt National Park shelter herds of wild horses, elk, bison and pronghorn. As the name of the park suggests, they also play a role in human history: Part of the acreage was once Theodore Roosevelt’s ranch, maintained prior to his political career. The town of Medora at the edge of the park has the most lodging, including the Badlands Motel. Belfield, Watford City and other regional communities offer further choices a bit farther out.
The Red Deer River Valley badlands of Alberta, like those of the Dakotas, are on the Great Plains, which reach their northern terminus in Canada. This region has produced some of the richest dinosaur fossils in the world. The community of Drumheller, set in the badlands, can put you up for the night in such motels as the Drumheller Travelodge. While staying in town, you can appreciate the area’s prehistory at the Royal Tyrell Museum, where many of the fossils on display derive from the region’s drylands.
Central Oregon is home to the three units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, named for the immensely diverse beds of plant and mammal remains fossilized in these dry hills and badlands of juniper and sagebrush. The Sheep’s Rock Unit includes the ethereal Blue Badlands, while the Painted Hills Unit showcases the eponymous, sensual erosions banded with color. A number of small towns scattered across the remote area have motels, including John Day’s Americas Best Value Inn and the Service Creek Stage Stop Lodge in Fossil.
- NPS Lodging: Badlands National Park Area
- Frommer's: Hotels - Theodore Roosevelt National Park
- Travel in Alberta: Drumheller Accommodations
- Go Oregon: Hotels & Other Lodging In & Near John Day Fossil Beds
- "Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape"; B. Lopez (ed.); 2006
- badlands image by jedphoto from Fotolia.com