Saturday, June 15, 2013

Badlands of South Dakota

Yesterday we were off to Badlands National Park, an area south of the Black Hills.  The park covers 244,300 acres of the White River Badlands.  The French trappers of the 1800s called it "a bad land to cross".   The Dakota Indians labeled it "mica sica", or land bad.    It is an area of steeply eroded land marked by rock castles, buttes and mesas which are unable to support plant life, but patchwork remnants of native grasslands represent years of adapting conditions. 
Speaking of years, our first stop in the park was to see a few of the many fossil remains which have been found in the park.  The Badlands has one of the highest concentration of fossils in the world.  At one time the land was under a sea which teemed with life, the remains of that life can be found in the grayish-black sedimentary rock called shale.  Years later the area became a dense subtropical forest and an array of now extinct animals ranged the land.  We walked on a boardwalk which had replicate casts of those bones.
Years passed and the forest gave way to a savannah, which later became a grassland.  Fossilized soils refer to the climatic history of the Badlands and they also speak to the colorful banding of the park's rocks. Pink and yellow stripes can be seen in the rock formations below.
One of the overlooks in the park provided a view (way off in the distance) where the Battle of Wounded Knee occurred.  Chief Big Foot and 200 of his people were pursued and killed by the United States Army in the winter of 1890.  I will write more on the Badlands and the wildlife we saw there in my next posting.

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