I had the good fortunate recently to visit one of the more remarkable landscapes in the state of Montana…the Terry Badlands. They are located three miles northwest of Terry and north of I-94 and the Yellowstone River in Prairie County. I traveled through the badlands on an unimproved road called the Claypso Trail not knowing what to expect. And I can tell you that I was blown away. Anyone in Montana with a ATV or 4-wheel drive vehicle owes it to themselves to visit this place at least once in their lifetime.
The journey to the Calypso Trail begins by crossing an old railroad train trestle over the mighty Powder River. Crossing this dilapidated old Milwaukee Road bridge, which has holes in its underbelly patched up with old rusty sheets of steel borrowed from old signs doesn’t exactly inspire confidence as you cross it. And the only thing the separates you from a 80 feet fall to the water below is a thin steel cable. I’ve seen thicker cables used on trawlers fishing for salmon on the Columbia River.
For those who are afraid of heights the drive across the old bridge might be the most frightening part of the trip. But the drive on Calypso Trail is no walk in the park either. Portions of the road are washed out and the gullies require some patience and thought to cross, especially if you wander outside of this BLM land onto Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Block Management land on the north side of this 10-mile wide inhospitable (but beautiful) place. And get your ass out of there if you should see even a hint of rain. Calypso Trail will turn into a muddy gumbo that may have you stay in the Terry Badlands much, much longer (i.e. days) than you wanted.
The amazing landscapes and dramatic escarpments are breathtaking in many places. And when you round the bend in the trail and lay your eyes onto Chimney Rock for the first time, you will gasp. It looks like something plucked from Monument Valley in Arizona. The Terry Badlands are also rich with wildlife and wild flowers. There’s so much to see.
Interestingly, on this beautiful Sunday afternoon it seemed as though I had the entire badlands to myself. I’m floored more people don’t visit places like this.
Be sure to check out my gallery of 20+ photos Terry Badlands below. I will return to this place in the fall and camp for the night so I can capture the best light for making better photos. I can’t wait.
To see more collections of my photos be sure to visit my Photo Galleries page.