South Dakota Badlands National Park
Four years ago in 2008 was our first trip across the country. Along the way, we visited the Badlands, Wall Drugs, Mount Rushmore and Bear Country USA. Since we enjoyed these places so much, we decided to re-visit them on our way home.
In 2008 the temperature was 105 and I was really cranky (Debbie) because the air-conditioning in our truck wasn’t working. Today was a gorgeous 72 degrees. What an awesome wonder. Its history bears repeating and, for us, remembering, so here it is!
The White River Badlands in southwest South Dakota are the best places in the world to study and understand the effects of erosion. It is there that geology and life of the past connect themselves with the present. For approximately 30 million years, layers of muds, sands and gravels were laid down. In those layers are fossils of many different prehistoric animals preserved for modern study. About one to four million years ago, erosion began to outpace the deposits, leaving colorful spires resembling castles.
What Happened to Make the Badlands?
This area was once a portion of a giant salt water sea. Upheaval and volcanic activity pushed the sea floor up. As the water drained away, it left behind broad, marshy plains. About 25 million years ago, three-toed horses, sabre-toothed cats and other prehistoric animals roamed the area. When they died, many were buried by river sediments or just sank into the marshlands. Periodically, white volcanic ash covered the soil, hot winds blew across the plateaus and the terrain continued evolving.
The Badlands’ deposits originally covered hundreds of miles surrounding the Black Hills. Rivers flowing eastward from the Hills cut into the deposits and with the help of wind, rain and snow, thousands of tons of sedimentary deposits were carried away. The area continues to erode away today as each season takes its toll.
The Badlands of South Dakota were set aside to preserve approximately one-tenth of the White River Badlands. The area was established as a national monument by Presidential proclamation in 1939. In 1978, the Badlands National Monument was designated a national park. The purpose of the park is to preserve the scenery, wildlife, indigenous plants and areas of scientific significance.
The Badlands National Park covers 244,300 acres of the White River Badlands.