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June 25, 2010

AllCampgrounds Nature-Watching Series: Prairie Dogs

Filed under: Nature — Tags: , — Simos @ 12:05 am
Prairie dogs at rest

Prairie dogs at rest
Photo by: Thomas Ricks (Stock Exchange)

Today’s AllCampgrounds blog continues our hunt for the wildest, wackiest, most majestic, and most amazing wildlife you can see at parks and camp grounds around the country. So far, we’ve spotted bald eagles and followed the trail of the American bison, known far and wide as the buffalo. Now, we’ll drop in on nature’s latest TV star, the prairie dog. Prairie dogs are fascinating creatures with habits that have intrigued and enticed everyone from your average nature lover to documentary filmmakers. These manic little ground squirrels are private by nature, but there are some places perfect for getting a glimpse of them – and doing some prime tent camping while you’re at it.

Badlands National Park: This park, in South Dakota, is known for its natural “architecture” – 244,000 acres of rock formations ranging from tall, narrow spires to long, flat buttes cut from the land by thousands of years of erosion. Dotted here and there are burrows full of prairie dogs, who coexist in an ecosystem that also includes buffalo, coyotes, foxes, and ferrets, among others. Camping facilities are ample at Cedar Pass and Sage Creek. Cedar Pass contains just shy of 100 level, developed sites, while Sage Creek is for primitive camping, and is free of charge.

Prairie Dog State Park: If you need to go camping quick, then take your search for prairie dogs to Kansas, where they’re so numerous there’s a park named after them – complete with a giant prairie dog statue at the entrance. There are 58 tent sites here, and though all campsites on the grounds include utilities, you can enjoy primitive camping at your discretion. In addition to a whole “town” full of our prairie dog friends, this park is home to a spectacular variety of birds; the lake is a hot spot for bird watchers during migration season. Visit the local birding checklist for details on what you might see!

Wind Cave National Park: South Dakota is the heartland of “prairie dog country”, and Wind Cave National Park gives you the chance to enjoy almost 30,000 acres of grassy plain and pine forests where prairie dogs roam. Of course, these little guys stay out of the cave that serves as centerpiece of adventuring in this particular park, but don’t pass up the chance to do some spelunking with guided cave tours while you’re there. There are over 100 miles of passages to explore, and as the fourth-longest cave in the world, more chambers are discovered all the time. Winds inside can run up to 70 miles per hour!

KOA Devil’s Tower: Found in Wyoming right within spitting distance of Devil’s Tower National Monument, this Kampgrounds of America site caters to all your camping needs. It’s a great jumping off point for touring the grounds of the Tower, since there are no RV hookups at the monument, though tent camping is available. Anyone who knows camping knows you can’t go wrong with KOA offerings, which range from basic tent sites to posh cabins. KOA Devil’s Tower is served by the western-style Longhorn Cafe and is a popular destination for participants in the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Mountain View RV Park and Campground: Mountain View is another pick for the Devil’s Tower area and for visiting the Tower’s robust prairie dog population. Super-sized pull-through RV sites are the norm here, and offer full electric and water hookup. There are also cabins and ample tent camping, which happens to be convenient to the park’s pool. Mountain View accepts discounts from the Good Sam Club, which we learned about in an earlier post on camping discounts.

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