Badlands National Park, South Dakota

October 13, 2015

The Sage Creek Wilderness Area is the best area to see animals that live in Badlands.

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Bison

Reintroduced in 1964, Badlands NP must remove some bison from the population in order to maintain a balanced ecosystem.

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There are no natural predators and the bison are confined within park boundaries. All bison are donated to Native American Tribes in order to supplement herds throughout the country.

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Roberts Prairie Dog Town

Roberts Prairie Dog Town is a former homestead that has been converted into a massive network of tunnels, making it easy to see the black-tailed prairie dogs up close.

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Prairie Dogs

These cute little diggers spend most of their time barking out warnings to their neighbors. They share their underground home with the burrowing owl and the recently reintroduced black footed ferret, which is an endangered species.

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Prairie Rattlesnake

The Badlands themselves are almost devoid of vegetation, but the park’s grasslands encompass the largest protected mixed-grass prairie in the United States and are inhabited by bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, coyotes, jackrabbits, rattlesnakes and numerous species of birds.

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The few trees include Rocky Mountain juniper and Great Plains cottonwood.

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Badlands National Park was established as a national monument in 1939 and designated a national park in 1978.

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The Lakota people were the first to call this place "mako sica" or "land bad." Extreme temperatures, lack of water, and the exposed rugged terrain led to this name.

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In the early 1900's, French-Canadian fur trappers called it "les mauvais terres pour traverse," or "bad lands to travel through."

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Interior Paleosol and Yellow Mound Paleosol

A jungle grew here. Before that, about 65 million years ago a shallow sea covered the land.

For a long time tree roots broke up the shale and chemicals from decaying plants produced a yellow soil.

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Interior Paleosol and Yellow Mound Paleosol

About 37 million years ago sediment from the west washed over the jungle.

The jungle rebounded, converting the new sediment into a red soil. Buried by later sediments, both yellow and red soils were fossilized. They are call the Yellow Mound Paleosol and the Interior Paleosol.

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The hills and buttes in Badlands National Park consist largely of sedimentary rock. Because they have eroded in such dramatic formations, it’s easy to detect the geological history of the area through the different-colored layers of rock visible in the hillside.

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These formations are noted for their delicately banded colours, including white (volcanic ash), orange and rusts (iron oxide), grays and tans (mixtures of silt, clay, and ash), and purple (oxidized manganese).

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Erosion began in the Badlands about 500,000 years ago when the Cheyenne River captured streams and rivers flowing from the Black Hills into the Badlands region. Before 500,000 years ago, streams and rivers carried sediments from the Black Hills building the rock layers we see today.

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The Badlands erode at the rapid rate of about one inch per year.

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Evidence suggests that they will erode completely away in another 500,000 years, giving them a life span of just one million years. Not a long period of time from a geologic perspective.

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Fossil Exhibit Trail

The park also contains numerous fossil beds, including the world’s richest beds from the Oligocene Epoch (33.7 to 23.8 million years ago).

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Fossil Exhibit Trail

These beds have yielded the fossil remains of such animals as the three-toed horse, camel, sabre-toothed cat, and an ancestor of the rhinoceros, all of which lived in the region when the climate was comparatively warm and moist.

How to get there

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Physical Addresses for GPS

Park Headquarters: 25216 Ben Reifel Road, Interior, SD 57750.
Northeast Entrance (I-90, Exit 131): 21020 SD Hwy 240, Interior, SD 57750.
Pinnacles Entrance (I-90, Exit 110): 24240 Hwy 240, Wall, SD 57790.
Interior Entrance: 20640 SD Hwy 377, Interior, SD 57750.


Driving distance from Vancouver:
2,139 km (1,329 mi)
Driving time from Vancouver: Approx. 21 hours