Badlands National Park, South Dakota

After driving endless miles across the plains of South Dakota, the ground suddenly drops away. Seconds ago the grassland landscape rolled gently…

Buffalo Gap, South Dakota

Buffalo Gap, South Dakota

The stuff that looks like ice and snow is in fact... ice and snow - we were there in February!

The stuff that looks like ice and snow is in fact… ice and snow – we were there in February!

…Now the ground on either side of the road is carved away in an continuous series of deep, steep-sided gullies. You’ve just entered the Badlands.

Welcome to the Badlands

Welcome to the Badlands

Grasslands give way to Badlands

Grasslands give way to Badlands

One of the first things you notice about the Badlands, is how the sides of the gullies are made up of horizontal bands: cemented sediments that accumulated over millions of years. The varying colours and thickness of these sediments represent different periods of geological history.

My first view out across the Badlands

My first view out across the Badlands

The red and yellow colours result from the presence of oxidized iron

The red and yellow colours result from the presence of oxidized iron

For over half a billion years, what are today the Great Plains and Prairies of Central North America were at the bottom of a shallow inland sea. Over that entire time, sediments gradually collected on the sea’s bed, resulting in layered deposits thousands of feet thick. Around 69 million years ago, the sea drained and its former floor became vast, flat plains.

IMG_1381IMG_1383But that wasn’t the end of the story. Other geological agents – such as rivers, the wind and glaciers – took over the depositional duties, and the plains continued to accumulate sediments. Then, around 5 to 10 million years ago, erosional forces started to replace depositional ones.

Can you tell it was cold and windy during our visit?

Can you tell it was cold and windy during our visit?

IMG_1387Even so, the Badlands of South Dakota didn’t truly begin forming until about half a million years ago. The blink of an eye in geological terms. At that time, streams and rivers from Black Hills were captured by the Cheyenne River, and started cutting away at the sediments their predecessors had deposited in this area.

The trees down in the gully give a sense of scale

The trees down in the gully give a sense of scale

IMG_1391The sediments visible in the Badlands of South Dakota represent roughly the last 75 million years of these processes, right the way back to the final days of the inland sea.

Standing on a former seabed - at the base of the Badlands escarpment

Standing on a former seabed – at the base of the Badlands escarpment

Some layers are harder than others, and so erode at different rates, producing features such as this toadstool

Some layers are harder than others, and so erode at different rates, producing features such as this toadstool

Today the Dakota Badlands are eroding at an average rate of one inch per year. Which means that in another half a million years or so, they will have eroded themselves into extinction. So go see them while you still can!

IMG_1410IMG_1412Originally established as a National Monument in 1939, it’s unsurprising the Badlands were promoted to National Park status in 1978. Once seen, the Badlands of South Dakota truly are an unforgettable landscape.

IMG_1418

Stitched panorama

Stitched panorama

This post was inspired by this week’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, which is Landscapes and Seascapes.

Another Badlands landscape - a prairie dog town

Another Badlands landscape – a prairie dog town

Ooops! I think we've been spotted!

Ooops! I think we’ve been spotted!

While you’re still mesmerized by the dramatic landscapes of Dakota’s Badlands, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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About Jaspa

Star of my own award-winning adventure novels, Jaspa's Journey. Geocaching addict & F1 fan. Adventure Journeyer & blogger extraordinaire. Check out my website: www.jaspasjourney.com And don’t forget to download the books and see what the buzz is all about!
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9 Responses to Badlands National Park, South Dakota

  1. The Badlands are stunning (and stunningly cold in winter, I would imagine.) We’re there in summer, when it can be really hot and dry, but sometimes there’s more than a hint of green to offset the browns and sepias.

    janet

  2. Cee Neuner says:

    Oh yes, these landscapes work beautifully for this week’s challenge. Thanks ever so much for participating. 🙂

  3. jpeggytaylor says:

    What an incredible landscape! I can really imagine the Badlands as part of a sea bed with fish and other sea creatures swimming around in those rocks. Geology is so fascinating – the horizontal bands of different colours show us just how the sediments settled … the history of the land is literally captured in its own colour-coded stripes 🙂

  4. What unique and extraordinary landscape 🙂

    • Jaspa says:

      It’s certainly something to see, Monkeys. And you might be interested to know that the Dinosaur Provincial Park Badlands I visited in Alberta are also a UNESCO site!

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