Monday, July 14, 2008

The Badlands

I took a bunch of photos of the Badlands as we went through, and thought they would turn out great since the sun was setting. There is just no way to show how very strange this place is, though, and the pictures do not even come close to doing it justice.

There are spires, and gorges and canyons, and just when you think you have seen it all, you come around a curve in what appears to be flat land, and it looks like the world drops out from under you.

The gorges, or whatever you want to call them, have pink striations in them, from different materials making up the peaks and valleys. It is disconcerting as you cannot tell if the colors are real or if they are from the sunlight.
Anyway, the Badlands are 244,000 acres. Supposedly there is a lot of wildlife like buffalo, sheep etc, but damned if I know how they could live in this desolation. You can look forever and not see anything but this wierd landscape.
So many fossils have been found here that it was changed from a national monument to a national park to protect them. Paleontologists are able to study the evolution of Oligocene mammals over a span of 15 million years. Geologists are able to study the sediment deposits and piece together the geological processes that were responsible for forming the White River Badlands region. The whole area was once under water.

About half of the park is made up of a mixed grass ecosystem that is unlike any other on earth; it consists of many native plants and animals. The black-footed ferret, one of the most endangered mammals in North America, makes its home here. Of course we did not see him either.

A big draw of the Badlands is the Big Pig Dig. In 1993, a backbone was discovered by hikers and while it was thought to be an ancient pig, it was actually a hornless rhinoceros. The Big Pig Dig was supposed to last only that summer, but now 15 years later, it is about to finish. Since the start, scientists have dug up bones of early rhinoceroses, three-toed horses, small deer-like mammals, and saber-tooth cats. It is though that the Badlands has the highest concentration of fossils of anywhere in the world.

To me, this looks like what Mars might look like. Or hell.


Lazy A Ranch said...

beautiful pictures

Anonymous said...

It's too bad they don't have the money to fund a type of building to house some of those bone findings. Be very interesting.

In Vernal Utah, they actually built a building of a sort OVER the site to continue digging on a dinosaur. It was very interesting and a different kind of country out there too.

I am so enjoying this. Carol

Holly said...

Incredible. We have such a variaton of ecology in this country, from the near-rainforest of the northwest to the tropics of Florida to the barren landscape of the badlands.


Jodi said...

I am very jealeous of your entire trip - the pictures are great. Keep them coming!

Patty said...

To anonymous: The Black Hills do have a building over a dig site, but it is in Hot Springs, not the Badlands. It's called the Mammoth Site and they have the endorsement of the Discovery Channel - thus lots of bucks to make a truly memorable experience with a state of the art building and actual digs every June and July. Lots of fun for anyone visiting the area.

Robin Sallie said...

I want to see the bad lands one day. I enjoyed your photos!

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