A Journey Through Time: The Land and People of South Dakota's Black Hills and Badlands

  • Note: This alumni adventure is sold out; waitlist now open.

  • July 8th through 11th, 2010
  • Registration deadline: June 1st, 2010

This Adventure is sold out as of 12/28/2009. We have started a waiting list. To add your name to the list, please return the reservation form at right. If space opens up we will contact you and request a deposit.

This will be the first Carleton Alumni Adventure to this exciting area, where geological, human, and ecological histories are richly intertwined. Explore the Black Hills and Badlands with Mary Savina ‘72, Carleton’s Charles L. Denison Professor of Geology and Director of Archaeology.


Our adventure will begin at 4:30 Thursday afternoon with a visit to the Journey Museum, where you’ll start your journey through time with an overview of the geological events that shaped the Black Hills. We’ll also visit the museum’s prehistoric and historic collections to explore the human story of the Western Great Plains - from the perspective of the Lakota people and the Euro-American pioneers who shaped its past, to the scientists who now study it.

This overview will inform our explorations for the remainder of the adventure. Highlights will include:

  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial – We’ll discover why the four presidents were selected, see how the mountain was carved, learn about sculptor Gutzon Borglum and the workers who brought Mount Rushmore to life, and walk the half-mile Presidential Trail that loops along the base of the mountain.
  • Custer State Park - We’ll travel through this 71,000-acre park on a road that experts said couldn’t be built. We’ll watch for bison, pronghorn (aka antelope) and bighorn sheep, mule and whitetail deer, burros, coyotes, wild turkeys, elk, mountain goats, and perhaps golden eagles
  • The Mammoth Site - We’ll see the fossil bones of Columbian and woolly mammoths in the ground where they were discovered – in a now-dry sinkhole. We’ll also view a state-of-the-art paleontology lab and Ice Age exhibits, including a walk-in mammoth bone hut.
  • Crazy Horse Memorial – We’ll check on the progress of this colossal undertaking. Work currently is underway on the horse’s head, which stands 22 stories high.
  • Badlands National Park – “The Oglala Sioux called the forbidding maze of buttes and spires mako sica, land bad. Early French-Canadian trappers also gave the jagged and barren landscape a bad name—les mauvaises terres à traverser, ‘bad lands to cross.’  . . . Wind, water, and time have sculpted a natural masterpiece on the American prairie, and the haunting Badlands inspire a unique awe in hearts not easily impressed. ‘I've been about the world a lot and pretty much over our own country,’ wrote architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935, ‘but I was totally unprepared for that revelation called the Dakota Bad Lands... What I saw gave me an indescribable sense of mysterious otherwhere.’” Scott Elder, Online Extra: Road Trip to the Moon: Badlands National Park, National Geographic Magazine (April 2004).
  • Pine Ridge Reservation – We’ll visit the site of the 1890 Battle of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation, which currently is home to 38,000 members of the Oglala band of Lakota Sioux.
  • Cheyenne River Bison Ranch – We’ll stop by for a special visit with Carleton’s friends, Dan O’Brien and Jill Maguire, for an up-close-and-personal view of their bison herd. Dan, an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction, will read from Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch (Random House, 2001) and from his most recent book, The Great Plains: America’s Lingering Wild (U. of Chicago Press, 2009). He’ll lead a discussion of prairie ecology and the challenges facing the Great Plains. Jill, a former restaurant owner, the ranch’s manager, and the culinary consultant for Wild Idea Buffalo Company, will treat us to a barbecue, featuring bison (of course!) as well as other delicious foods. 


Mary Savina ’72 is the Charles L. Denison Professor of Geology and Director of Archaeology. She teaches geomorphology, geology of soils, hydrology, and environmental geology. She is active in the Archaeology and Environmental Studies programs and is also the geology department liaison for students seeking teacher certification in earth sciences. Her professional work centers on geological education and on the archaeology of Greece.

Dan O’Brien has taught creative nonfiction and practical conservation courses at Carleton and was Carleton’s Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor of Environmental and Technology Studies in 2009. In addition to being an award-winning fiction and non-fiction author, Dan has been a wildlife biologist and rancher for more than 30 years and is one of the most celebrated falconers in America. Dan's experience on the Broken Heart, his first bison ranch, demonstrated that grazing bison rather than cattle improved the land and restored prairie, and provided an economically feasible model for local ranchers.


Howard Johnson Express Inn and Suites (within walking distance of downtown Rapid City)


$425.00 per person double occupancy. Single supplement is $148.00. Deduct $40 from double or single cost for children between the ages of 6 and 15. (Although these will be long days with a great deal of intellectual content, and no programming has been specifically planned for younger audiences, this trip may be appropriate for children 6 and older.)

Price includes

Insight and expertise of Professors Savina and O’Brien, and Marilyn Hovland, Director of South Dakota-Regional Traveling Studies
Hotel accommodations for 3 nights and all meals from Thursday dinner through Sunday breakfast
Motorcoach transportation
Admissions to sites
Sales tax

Price does not include

Transportation to/from Rapid City
Gratuities (e.g. hotel staff, motorcoach drivers, and shuttle drivers)
Alcoholic beverages
Personal expenses



Contact Ann Iijima at aiijima@carleton.edu or 800-729-2586.