The Dark Beauty of the Badlands

Badlands, SD – Cruising along the meandering scenic bypass through Badlands National Park in southwestern South Dakota it’s difficult to ignore the supernatural inklings they evoke. Teddy Roosevelt, awed by the dark beauty of this region, aptly described the Badlands as “hell without the fire.”

Indeed, this vast, jagged landscape is composed of eroded buttes and spires spread across nearly 244,000 acres that formed as a giant sea receded some 69 million years ago. Prehistoric animals likes mammoths, rhinos and saber-toothed cats once flourished here, making it one of the most fossil-rich areas in the nation, with some fossils dating back 33 million years. The erosion that formed the Badlands we see today began approximately 500,000 years ago. It’s expected to take just as many years before it’s completely eroded away.

Paleo-Indian tribes lived here prior to the arrival of the Lakota. In 1890, Chief Big Foot passed through here in the run-up to the Massacre at Wounded Knee, in which 300 Sioux Indians were felled by U.S. Army guns, Big Foot among them. During World War II, the military used a southern portion of the badlands as a practice aerial bombing range.

There are many hiking trails graded to varying degrees of difficulty, but don’t get to close to the edges. Even after millions of years the land is soft and crumbly. And beware of rattlesnakes, which tend to hide in crevices and near rocks. Because of the park’s size, help isn’t immediately available. Camping in designated areas is also permitted.

1 Comment

  1. Jilly says:

    You made me feel like going there at any price, I just loved these photos, gorgeous place!

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