My expectations, which were probably building because of all the billboards leading up to the Kadoka exit, may be a bit dashed a bit when we first approach the Badlands Petrified Gardens because the whole "garden" is completely surrounded by a tall wooden fence. No peeking! However, dollar-off coupon in hand, we went in ad paid our now $4 fee per person and were directed to the first display (indoors) -- naturally glowing (fluorescing) rocks. The outdoor garden is a self-guided tour. The kids ran from display to display, while the grown-ups made a more organized circular tour. Unlike a collection at a museum, you can actually get right up close to petrified logs and tree stumps, marveling at their colors and even touching their varied textures. We easily spent a half hour or 45 minutes out there reading and learning and marveling at what nature can do. (We arrived right after a rain. If you come on a dry day, ask if it is okay to bring a bottle of water and wet down some of the pieces -- their gorgeous colors, rings, and sparkles are greatly enhanced by a sprinkling of water.
There are opportunities both inside and out to purchase interesting little treasures. Outside they literally sell rock "by the pound." I found a couple nice, small pieces that will soon be in my aquairum after I confirm they won't leach anything into the water.
The tour ends inside with a marvelous collection of geodes, agates, and other natural and cut stones. The final stop is a rock-filled gift shop. Prices range from 40 cents for a rock specimin on a labeled card to many hundreds of dollars for more impressive pieces.
There are no blinking lights, video screens, or smells from greasy food vendors here. That in itself may have been worth the cost of admission!
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