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Dakota Midday: Celebrating National Parks 100th With A Single Badlands Cedar Tree

This week marks the 100th anniversary of National Parks. We’re kicking off a series of segments on National Parks with the story of a single Badlands cedar tree, loved by one family for generations.

This cedar sits on a point surrounded by steep cliffs in the Badlands National Park.    It resembles a Japanese bonsai. It’s gnarled, twisted, and bent by the relentless wind.

Earl Brockelsby was fascinated by this tree.  In 1937 Brockelsby founded of Reptile Gardens, now an iconic tourist attraction in the Black Hills.  But he never stopped coming back to this one tree in the Badlands.  He returned again and again to photograph this cedar, over the years he collected thousands of photos of this tree.

SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray went into the Badlands with Jeff Brockelsby, Earl’s son, to find this tree.  Click play below to hear the story. He brought back is this story about a family treasure now protected by a National Park for generations.

Special thanks in this story goes to:

Sam Hurst author of Rattlesnake Under His Hat.

Steve Babbitt photography professor at Black Hills State University


Jeff Brocklsby with Reptile Gardens

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