"The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom."
Badlands National Park is located in the White River Badlands in the southwestern region of South Dakota and was called mako sica by the Sioux Indians. The term badlands generally refers to an area that is difficult to travel through primarily because of the rugged terrain and lack of water. Badlands National Park consists of nearly 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires blended with the largest, protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. Sixty-four thousand acres are designated official wilderness.
When we first entered the park we could hardly believe what we were seeing! The land abruptly changed from flat and rolling hills of grassland into a vision of harsh dry moon-like terrain.
The colors and shadows of the badlands formations kept changing throughout the day to make each area appear unique.
Badlands National Park contains the world's richest Oligocene epoch fossil beds, dating 23 to 35 million years old. Skeletons of ancient camels, horses, saber-toothed cats and giant rhinoceros-like creatures are among the many fossilized species found here, and more are being discovered by park officials as more erosion occurs.
The bizarre landforms are the masterpiece of water and wind erosion that took place over millions of years. On average, the badlands erodes one inch per year.
There are many overlook parking viewing areas in the park, and also hiking trails to take off the road. Approximately one million people visit the Badlands National Park each year from all over the world.
Such a vast wilderness .....
..... with visions of the most unusual landscape as far as the eye can see!
The unique badlands formations are interlaced with one of the largest mixed-grass prairie ecosystems in the United States. Badlands National Park is over 50% mixed grass prairie. Over 60 types of grass thrive here, as well as dozens of flowering plants. The best time to see many unique native prairie flowers is in spring and early summer, after the winter snow melt has taken place.
Just outside the Badlands National park there is a small natural exhibit of a few early homesteader's homes called Prairie Homestead. An example of a sod house is seen above. If you look at the website you can see what the interior looks like and read more about the early pioneers who lived here. Many hopeful farmers travelled to South Dakota from the East Coast or Europe to try to make a living in this hard place, but drought, blizzards and locust invasions forced many away. Throughout our travels we were so in awe of the early pioneer's fortitude and bravery as they traveled West in a quest to make a better life for themselves.
The Badlands is home to many species of birds, mammals, and reptiles, but the only creatures we saw during our visit were prairie dogs. These plump white prairie dogs were living on the grounds of the Prairie Homestead, where they have the only white prairie dog town in the world!
I am linking this post to Susan at A Southern Daydreamer blog's Outdoor Wednesday posts. Please visit Susan's blog and see links to many wonderful blog posts showing outdoor sights across the nation and the world! Thanks Susan!
There is a terrible dark secret lying in some of the beautiful prairies of the West and I'll show you one we visited on our vacation in my next blog post.