In May, Dale and I took a road trip through the Dakotas. I love visiting national parks, so of course we had to take in the Badlands in South Dakota! For the Weekly Photo Challenge, this week the theme is Layered. The Badlands is an ideal place to see layered bands of rock.
The Badlands formations are dramatic, yet more subdued in their colors than the cliffs and buttes of the Grand Canyon. What I liked about the Badlands was that, when you are some distance away, all you see is prairie grasslands; then abruptly the prairie ends and you see below you a variety of weirdly shaped formations large and small.
And of course, there are roads and trails you can take to explore the landscape. The landscape grows more dramatic the farther in you go.
We drove the Badlands Loop Road, since we had limited time and health problems deterred me from trying any long or strenuous trails. However, I had fun using the Badlands app on my phone, and earning a bonus point for each stop we made!
75 million years ago, there was an inland sea where the Badlands is now located. In the Badlands of today, the bottom of that sea is a layer of sedimentary rock, grayish black in color, called Pierre shale. This layer is full of fossils of marine animals that once lived in that ancient sea.
Millions of years passed. Continental plates pushed against each other, creating the Rocky Mountains. This caused the land under the sea to rise, and the water drained away. The climate at that time was warm and humid, with a subtropical rain forest covering the land. Over time, the climate got cooler and drier. The subtropical forest gave way to savannah, then to the grassland that we see today.
After a heavy rainstorm, the rocks of the Badlands show bands of vivid red against the buff tones of the buttes. These reds represent fossilized soils that make up much of the Badlands rocks. However, the day we were there, no rain had fallen, so although the colors were not so vivid, the layered bands of rock that formed over time are easy to discern.
Many kinds of wildlife live in the Badlands: mammals such as bobcats, pronghorn and Bighorn sheep, bison, prairie dogs, and ferrets – ferrets nearly became extinct due to shrinking habitat and disease, but they are now making a comeback.
There are prairie dog towns throughout the park, but we didn’t stop, having seen plenty of them in Theodore Roosevelt National Park and other wildlife areas in North Dakota.
However, if you enter the Badlands from the north (Hwy 14 Exit 110), the Pinnacles entrance, several miles before you get to the park, you can see the largest prairie dog in the world! (He’s on the left if you are going north, on the right, if you are going south.)