Over the millenniums, hundreds of animal species have lived in South Dakota. They unknowingly left behind hints of their presence which have interested history buffs and paleontologists for centuries. Paleontology museums in the region showcase the findings. Some attractions, such as the Mammoth Site, even offer limited opportunities to help dig up fossils.
If your interest is in geology, the Black Hills is your playground. Comprised of granite, pegmatite and metamorphic rock; you will find a vast array of minerals, including the infamous Black Hills Gold.
The Black Hills is the perfect destination to experience and learn more about at these prehistoric wonders.
Bones & Stones
Seems like all the Big Boys of the Jurassic Age once lived in western South Dakota. Dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Brontosaurus. In the Cretaceous Period much later, land mammals evolved in a savannah that are today’s Badlands. Later a great inland sea came and went, leaving petrified cypress trees and the bones of great sea serpents.
The best dinosaur museums in the area are the Museum at Black Hills Institute in Hill City (where you’ll make the acquaintance of a 30-foot T-rex called “Stan”) and the Museum of Geology on the campus of South Dakota Tech in Rapid City has a big gallery of dinosaurs and sea serpents fossils. The fact is, almost every museum here has a bone department with finds from local dino-digs.
At the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, the digging continues indoors where an ancient sinkhole has revealed the remains of 56 mammoths so far. These are “modern” bones (only 26,000 years old!) The Visitor Center in Badlands National Park also displays fossils from the Age of Mammals.
Trees of stone? They really do exist on a ridge top near Piedmont, home of the Black Hills Petrified Forest. Farther north, near Lemmon, the big chunks of petrified wood were the scourge of the plowshare, so they loaded them up, hauled them to town and assembled them into the bizarre Petrified Wood Park. At Kadoka, Badlands Petrified Gardens displays some of the largest petrified tree trunks ever found.
Easy access off I-90, Exit 152. Unique outdoor park includes the largest petrified trees & logs ever found in the Badlands area. Indoor museum features prehistoric Badlands mammal & sea fossils, extensive florescent mineral display, agates, rock, mineral & crystal specimens. Open mid-April to late October.
Where the Brontosaurus Dinosaur was excavated in 1889! Experience a one-of-a-kind tour & nature walk through the best Black Hills geology. Explore trees that have turned to stone, museum displays, working lapidary, rock & gift shop. Open daily Apr-Oct 8:30 am to 7:00 pm. RV & tent camping, cabins & heated pool on-site. Free Petrified Forest tour w/lodging. AAA approved!