Sheep Mountain Table

What makes the Badlands the gorgeous park that it is, is that the soil is highly erosive. Given the chance, the land there will erode away into impressive spires, hoodoos and fins, but if vegetation can establish itself first, a layer of prairie sod will act as a protective capstone. This capstone effect leads to the formation of tables and buttes. Some sod tables are small, not much bigger than a school bus, but some are huge and run on for miles. Sheep Mountain Table is one such place. It is located in the northeast corner of the Badlands southern half of the park. This half of the park receives mush fewer visitors than the more popular northern half of the park does, but it still include some impressive formations.

This was on our last day in the Badlands. We had decided to leave a day early, because of high winds. North us in North Dakota, five tornado boxes had swept across that state. When we had returned to our campsite, our tent was flattened by the wind. The forecast called for a repeat of this, so we decided to bag it.

Before we left though, we wanted to explore the southern half of the park. We drove down to the White River Visitors Center. This part of the park is jointly managed by the park service and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. It is here where we learned about Sheep Mountain Table.

Backtracking north, we turned off on to Sheep Mountain Road. The first five miles of this dirt road was reasonably Prius friendly. It got us up on the table. We parked at the turnaround and observing the warning sign about a rough road ahead, started hiking. I estimate that it was about 2.5 miles, before we got to the end of the road. It was pretty easy hiking, through prairie still in the throes of spring. Occasionally, the road would meander close to the table’s edge, which afforded us some excellent views of the surrounding countryside. When we reached the end of the road, we had lunch. We never saw another soul, until we got back to the car. We had stumbled upon a solitary great outdoors experience.

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