New visitor center coming to Badlands National Park

BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK, S.D. — The Ben Reifel Visitor Center has been a part of Badlands National Park for just over six decades.

On Monday, September 13th, a special announcement was made amidst a bout of much appreciated rain. After more than five years of officials working on getting the park an updated facility, the park will be receiving a brand-new one.

Badlands visitor centerFunding for the project would not have been possible without the help of park sponsors. Over $5 million was generously donated by three different donor groups: The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, Badlands Natural History Association, and The Badlands National Park Conservancy.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust made the largest contribution, having donated over $3 million for the project.

“It’s entities like the Helmsley Charitable Trust and the local partners here,” Bert Frost, Midwest Region Director of the National Parks Service, expressed. “That is really going to be the catalyst to actually implement the vison that was set forth in the development concept plan that was started those six years ago.”

The new facility will be more up-to-date with information and opportunities for the public. Plans also include making it compliant with ADA standards and providing visitors with more information about the history and culture of the Lakota people.

“It’s several years away, but education, information, the chance to engage with staff and just learn about this incredible place,” Mike Pflaum, Badlands National Park Superintendent stated. “That’s what the key opportunities with the new visitor center are.”

The new visitor center currently does not have an opening date. However, the opportunities and stories it will bring have many excited about it already.

“There are so many visitors that have come to Badlands National Park this year,” Walter Panzirer, Helmsley Charitable Trust Trustee spoke on. “So the new visitor center will be able to accommodate them and tell the story of Badlands National Park. And tell the story of the Native American culture as well.”

Badlands National Park is currently open seven days a week for visitors. Admission into the park is $30 for private cars, $15 for bikers and hikers, and $25 for motorcyclists.

On September 25th, the park will be open admission-free to celebrate National Public Lands Day. The day celebrates connections between citizens and local natural spaces along with outdoor education and environmental stewardship.

“And while there will be no particular special events it is a day of free entrance to the national parks including bad lands,” said Pflaum about the National Public Lands Day.

To learn more about National Public Lands day, visit

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News