Sheep Mountain Table

Badlands National Park

Formed primarily by the powerful geologic force of erosion, the Badlands are a unique spectacle. Deposition of sediments began 69 million years ago when an ancient sea stretched across what is now the Great Plains. After the sea retreated, successive land environments, including rivers and flood plains, continued to deposit sediments.

Though made up of multiple different landscapes, the park is often referred to simply as “The Wall” for the natural barrier it creates through the dry plains of South Dakota. Created by the forces of water, carving amazing pinnacles and gullies, The Wall and its cliffs have been transformed for the past half million years. Erosion continues to carve the Badlands landscape today and eventually, the Badlands will completely erode.

Sheep Mountain Table is a large mesa (table-top mountain) in the Stronghold Unit of the park, which is co-managed with the Oglala Sioux Tribe and includes sites of 1890s Ghost Dances. The grass-topped summit in this historical section of the park is scattered with yuccas, and if you go to the juniper grove at the end of the road, you will be surrounded by a stunning collection of rock spires and pinnacles.

Getting There:  

From the southern entrance of the park, drive south for four miles on SD 27. After about 2.5 miles, the road crosses back into the national park, and just before it goes out again, there is an unpaved road on the right (west) that leads to Sheep Mountain Table. 

GPS:

N43° 40.1042', W102° 34.1901'

Road Conditions:

The road is 6.5 miles long (though it may seem longer). For about the first four miles, most passenger cars can handle the dirt conditions. At the Gunnery Range Overlook (the area in view used to be the site for weapons testing, and there may still be unexploded shells about), the conditions get much more difficult and should only be attempted by high-clearance vehicles with good tires.

Photo: Carol M. Highsmith

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