Thanks to the centennial this year, the national parks are getting plenty of attention. But despite the notoriety of American gems such as Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite, there are still a few underrated treasures. Badlands National Park, located in southwestern South Dakota, is one of them, and the two brothers behind the More Than Just Parks documentary project uncover its rugged allure in their latest video.
“Our expectations were exceeded here,” Will Pattiz, co-founder of More Than Just Parks, says. “There is a lot more to the Badlands than meets the eye.” Will and his brother, Jim Pattiz, spent three weeks in the park shooting what would become the three-minute, high-resolution video. In that time, they captured the star-drenched skies, oceans of prairie grasses, spectacular red rocks, and sharply eroded buttes that set the Badlands apart from all other parks. “Badlands is unique, because you don’t get those formations anywhere else,” says Jim. “You drive hours through oceans of grass to get to the park entrance and all of a sudden, it comes out of nowhere. The towers rise straight from the prairie.”
And once you’re in park boundaries, it gets better. “Catching sunset from the overlooks within the park is incredible,” says Jim. “You can look into the Badlands, and it goes on and on forever. The undulating hills and towers when the light fades is a magical thing.”
Besides the breathtaking scenery, the Pattiz brothers were also able to capture the park’s exceptional wildlife. Badlands is home to bighorn sheep, bison, pronghorn, burrowing owls, western meadowlarks, and North America’s most endangered land mammal — the black-footed ferret. But the Pattiz’s favorite subjects to film were the prairie dogs. “You could sit down and watch them from sunrise to sunset and you would never get bored,” Will says. “They are busy animals — always working on their burrows or wrestling or finding food. But every once in awhile you’ll come across a prairie dog that’s just had it. My favorite shot in the entire video is the prairie dog that’s sitting outside of his burrow with his legs dangling there. There’s a bunch of other dogs around him working hard and he's there like, ‘No, I’m done.’ ”
And it was the wildlife — not other park-goers — that kept the Pattiz’s entertained while filming. “We practically had the park to ourselves,” Jim says. “ On and off the road, there was hardly anyone there. So we expected the Badlands to feel desolate, but it’s the opposite; there is so much life. There aren’t many places where you can have that intimate interaction with the wildlife and landscape of a park.”
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