Badlands National Park preserves a diversity of significant resources for the education and inspiration of a world audience. These resources are a blending of the best known Oligocene fossil deposits contained within archetypical Big Badlands formations, a rich and varied cultural history spanning from paleo-Indian occupation through the early twentieth century homesteading period, and a fine expanse of a mixed grass prairie ecosystem. Other qualities, most notably the wilderness character, clean air, quiet, solitude, vastness, and natural processes, provide visitors with a setting for exploration and appreciation through such experiences as hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, scenic drives and vistas, research and educational opportunities, and quiet contemplation.
Badlands National Park was established as a national monument to protect its fossil resources and its stunning geological scenery; however, the park's story encompasses much more than that. The park currently provides public education in four broad areas: The paleontological resources demonstrate the rise of the mammals after the demise of dinosaurs and show how Oligocene mammal populations evolved through 15 million years of climate change
The geological processes involved with the building and destruction of the White River Badlands are illustrated through the deposition of sediments and erosion of the resulting layers
The mixed grass prairie ecosystem protected within Badlands National Park makes up more than 50% of the park and consists of native plants and animals.
The diverse human history spans at least 11,000 years, demonstrating cultural adaptation as the physical environment evolves.