Riding the 2010 Kawasaki Quads, New Teryx at Indiana’s Badlands Off-Road Park

Home Page Slide Show, Kawasaki, UTV, Utility — on December 28, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Photo by FonzieSince the early 1900s, it has been said that the United States is a melting pot, with different nationalities, ethnicities and cultures blended together to create a truly American culture, unique from that of any of the much older countries in the world.

This reality, many have argued, has allowed our country to become the cultural center of the planet, because we borrow a little bit from everybody else and create our own new reality. Some snobs around the globe (i.e.: the French) may think that our cuisine, fashion and theater isn’t quite as refined as their own, but our television shows, music, fast food restaurants and blue jean fashion is ultra pervasive because we offer something for everybody.

It seems only fitting, then, that the ultimate melting pot for all things ATV and off-road related is located toward the center of our country.

Tucked away in a rural area in western Indiana, near the Illinois border, is the 800-acre Badlands Off-Road Park, a riding area that features a little bit of everything:

It’s got sand washes and hills that somewhat remind us of the Desert Southwest;

It’s got mud holes and lowlands that make us think of the Deep South;

It’s got rocky sections that are reminiscent of the Rockies or Appalachians;

It’s got trails through hardwood forests that could be located in the Upper Midwest, Southeast or Northeast.

Mix in some creeks to cross, steep hills to climb and on-site motocross tracks to tame, add a shake of friendly service at the pro shop and a twist of knowledgable wrenching available at the service center, and you’ve got the recipe for adventure.

The Badlands truly is a melting pot – no, the sand isn’t as deep or fine as the Imperial Sand Dunes near Glamis, California, the swamps aren’t as endless as some we’ve experienced in Texas or Georgia, the rocky sections aren’t a numerous as in the mountain states, the trails aren’t as voluminous as those of Wisconsin or Michigan and the MX track wouldn’t qualify to host a national race. That is to say, the Badlands isn’t the best at anything – but it’s really, really good at just about everything an ATV or UTV rider could want.

Our visit came during a rainy stretch of weather in mid-October as a part of a Kawasaki event. Team Green always does an excellent job of finding new and interesting places for us to ride, and they bowled a strike again with the Badlands area.

The 2010 Brute Force was up to the multiple tasks offered at the Badlands park.

The 2010 Brute Force was up to the multiple tasks offered at the Badlands park.

While there, we also got to check out the new styling on the 2010 Teryx and reacquaint ourselves with a couple of super-capable Brute Force models. With just minor changes to its lineup for 2010 (a new hood on the Teryx, just graphic changes on the Brute Force models), there weren’t any big surprises – and that’s a good thing. We came away impressed, with the ride park and the mighty machines that were up to every task.

Destined For A Ride Park

The Badlands Off-Road Park is just 13 years old, but the landscape is so interesting, the trails are so voluminous and the riding, in areas, is so challenging, that it almost seems unthinkable that this tract of land could be used for anything else. It’s as if this 800-acre parcel was destined to be a ride park.

But while it does feature many God-made features that make it interesting, it was the land’s previous use as a quarry — meaning heavy equipment for years dug at and turned over the land – that makes it ideal for off-roading.

Back in the day, the quarry made for an interesting place for local off roaders to sneak into and play. In the mid 1990s, a onetime boondocking rider on the property, Troy Myers, made the land into an off-road park that everybody could enjoy. Troy and his wife, Lisa, ran the park until early 2008, when he sold it to Kyle and Stephanie Knosp.

“I had done this business for 10 years, with the Paragon Adventure Park in Pennsylvania,” Kyle explained. “I knew Troy, the old owner here, and I wanted back ‘in’ and he wanted out.”

Fotos By FonzieAdventure Everywhere

As our van full of off-road enthusiasts rolled onto the Badlands property, we knew we were in for something special. The paved road that took us toward the Pro shop led us past a motocross track on our right and big rolling sand hills on our left, with rocky outcroppings and dense woods just beyond both. It all had a certain “are you sure we’re still in Indiana?” appeal to it.

By the time the crew got dressed in riding gear and mounted our Brute Force and Teryx steeds, the skies began to spit and the wind began to blow. Our timing, in terms of weather, couldn’t have been much worse – unseasonably cold and wet – but it wouldn’t dampen our spirits.

The first trail we hit took us through the sand hills, which featured a heavy, thick sand that, due to the weather conditions, gave up no dust. Some of it was fast and smooth, other parts had rutted, washboard conditions that caused us to select our lines carefully.

Within less than a mile, the trail dove into the woods, and the conditions changed. We traversed on a dirt and rock surface, with a canopy of hardwood trees hanging over our heads and lining both sides of the trail.

Other than the easy, main trail around the edge of the property, you’d be hard-pressed to find a straightaway at the Badlands more than 1000 feet long. Indeed, the trails wind an interested path over and past hills, through lowlands and over crests, onto rocky plateaus and then back into some sand.

Better yet, adventure seekers aren’t limited to the main trails. There are spurs that come off the trails in all directions, often leading to a super-steep incline, a rocky outcropping, a stair-stepping area with sandstone surfaces or other challenges.

“That’s the neat thing about the Badlands is that it’s 800 acres, and you can pretty much ride almost anywhere within those 800 acres,” Knosp explained. “The usability of the property is one of the biggest things here.”

There are five main trails that go throughout the park and are marked with directional arrows. They are color coded in red, yellow, orange, green and white, and a blue trail is being added. The easiest trail is the yellow trail, and it runs about nine miles. The most challenging trail is the orange trail, which runs throughout the park property.

Other than the yellow trail, all of the other trails have a mix of relatively easy to quite challenging adventures, but there’s nothing to be terribly afraid of. We did use four-wheel drive, however – as we created our own off-trail adventures on the park’s unique terrain. Kawasaki’s unique variable diff lock definitely came in handy – we were able to choose how much to lock up the front end on a Brute Force by using the yellow lever on the left side of the handlebar. On the Teryx, a center-console-mounted lever allowed us to make a similar choice.

On our last ride of the day, we found one trail that was impassable in these wet conditions, sinking a mighty Teryx in a lowland area that serves as a drainage basin for the property. It was definitely suck-your-boots-off-your-feet kind of mud, and it took a team of us to winch loose the rig.

In other parts of the park, we crossed streams, rode through culverts and did some nasty ascents and descents in the rocks. We stumbled across happy Jeep and SUV drivers who were finding plenty to challenge their larger vehicles. We never did get to take a run at the MX track – it was just too wet to consider tearing up the fine looking course, which features some big tabletops, a few step ups and some fun but minor elevation changes.

Making A Lot Of A Little

Depending on your perspective, 800 acres may or may not seem like a very big chunk of land on which to spend a long weekend off-roading. A look at the trail map proves that, as the crow flies, the park is merely about 2 miles long and about a mile wide at its longest point.

But the way the trails twist and turn, the way the terrain varies so greatly and the way nature- and human-made obstacles are melted together to create challenges, there is no boredom here. Those looking to do nothing but rock climb or blast through dunes for a weekend may want to look elsewhere. But those looking for variety and challenge would be hard-pressed to find a better melting pot of riding conditions than this.

For information, visit www.badlandsoffroad.com

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