Badlands Petrified Gardens
Kadoka, South Dakota
This old-school attraction dragged us off of the interstate with breathless billboard promises such as "Amazing and Spectacular" and "Rainbow From Atoms."
The Gardens are a grassy compound, hidden from non-paying customers behind a high fence, dotted with petrified wood stumps, logs, and piles. "Collected here," says one of the attraction's many signs, "so that all may see one of the wonders of nature." The signs serve as substitutes for a tour guide, and somehow it's funnier to read than to hear statements such as, "The ends of this log look as if beavers gnawed them." One particularly large, very complicated sign gives a biblical chronology of the Earth, with a precise 371 days assigned to the Flood.
Indoors, a small museum includes a fluorescent rock display (the promised Atomic Rainbow) and lots of rocks sitting on little hand-built shelves -- with yet more helpful signs.
Two of our favorite exhibits, unique to this museum, were, "Granite drill holes from Washington's nose," and, "Mud boulder resembles ham."