Monday, December 12, 2011

THE BADLANDS OF SOUTH DAKOTA

Badlands National Park
Of all the tours we experienced on our vacation, the Badlands National Park  is the most difficult t0 describe, partially because we only toured the northern part of the 244,300 acres, called the North Loop Road and the Badlands Wilderness Area which probably encompassed about 66,000 acres.

In 1935 Frank Lloyd Wright, the notable architect said, "I've been about the world a lot, and pretty much over our own country, but I was totally unprepared for that revelation call the Dakota Badlands...What I saw gave me an indescribable sense of mysterious elsewhere--a distant architecture, ethereal..., an endless supernatural world more spiritual than earth but created out of it."

The Badlands National Park is a treasure trove of geology, paleontology, and history but its formations are an ever-changing example of water (rain) and wind erosion. The rock formations are very fragile. In a short length of time persons who regularly study these formations can accurately show these effects.

The cardinal rule for tourists, bikers, hikers, and explorers, ADMIRE BUT DO NOT TOUCH, and reports  findings and formations you may think of importance to the entities doing on-going research studies. An 8 year old girl did just that; her find was part of a prehistoric animal whose skeleton was then recovered intact. SHE DID THE RIGHT THING and her name and discovery will be honored when the skeleton becomes a part of a new display to open in 2012. 

Warning to those who may be considering hiking, biking, camping, there is NO POTABLE water or food. Be prepared and watch weather forecasts as very severe thunderstorms and other extreme weather may occur suddenly.

Badlands National Park
The majority of the remaining acreage encompasses the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of the Lakota Indians.
There are three units to the Badlands National Park (BNP): North Unit and Badlands Wilderness Area, Stronghold Unit (also called the South Unit) and Palmer Creek Unit. The latter two are within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The Sioux Nation is composed of 3 major divisions: Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota. BNP reservation occupied by the Ogala band of the Lakota division.

Although the buttes, mounds, and colored striations of the peaks of rock formations, which I would incorrectly call mountains, are the immediate, awe-inspiring sights, a majority of the acreage is prairie with 60 species of grass which form the foundation of a complex community of wild plant and animal life.

The shaping of the land and life in the Badlands is about 75 million years old when the Earth's climate was warmer than today. Hmmm, wonder if the Warming Climate Green enthusiasts know this--don't think humans existed, maybe so-called humanoids, if you believe in such, but I digress.

A shallow sea covered the Great Plains from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada  and western Iowa to western Wyoming. This sea teemed with life. Today the bottom of that sea is represented by a grayish-black sedimentary rock called Pierre shale which is as rich source of fossilization of creatures that sank to the bottom when they died. Inside and outside BNP Pierre shale has yielded abundant remains of ancient fish, giant marine lizards, huge sea turtles, flying reptiles (ugh), a diving loon-like bird.

The Earth's continental plates pushed and shoved as eons passed, which produced the ancestral Rockie Mountains and causing the land under the sea to rise and the sea retreat and drain away. Thus the Badlands area was exposed to air and sunshine. The climate was humid and warm with much rainfall, creating a subtropical forest which flourished for millions of years.

Bandlands National Park Overlook
(by husband)
But then the climate COOLED. (where are the current ecological nuts???) and dried. Savannas formed as the forest receded. The savanna then became much like the grassland prairie it is today. This band in the rock formations is reddish in color and more visible after a heavy rainfall.

Most of the array of fossils are extinct animals from the Oligocene, a geologic epoch 23-35 million years ago.

Oh yes, a river runs through it--NOT THE MOVIE of the same phrase--but the White River which meanders through most of the acreage.

What about humans? The Badlands area has supported humans for more than 11,000 years, followed by nomadic tribes who settled along the White River and were replaced by the Sioux/Lakota in the mid 18th century and flourished in the region for about 100 years.

And then explorers came, followed by French fur trappers, soldiers, miners cattle farmers and homesteaders who changed the prairie forever; the groups battled over the land for 40 years, culminating in the Wounded Tree Massacre.

For more information and history of the Lakota/Ogala and all related to the Pine Ridge Reservation got to this very complete link.

I am including a few photos we made, but because of the nature of the subject matter, I made a Flickr slide show for those of you who might be interested. For some of you a series of similar photos becomes monotonous.

Photos/FLICKR: by NitWit1 unless otherwise attributed. [FLICKR Slide show should work- Click on slide show in upper right part of page; let me know if it does not. There is a click to detail and attribution of photos in the slide show]

Information attribution: BADLANDS, National Park Service, US Department of Interior brochure, Internet, our esteemed Road Scholar (tour guide) and my observations.


Badlands National Park


5 comments:

Grandma Yellow Hair said...

You are wonderful for sharing this post with us. I can not even begin to imagine how beautiful this part of our country is in South Dakota.
I have always wanted to see it but your pic's are almost like I have been there.
So happy you and hubby got to see this area.
Just this past Sunday I was watching the old movie with Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue called the A Summer Place or something close to that and the mother of Troy in the movie mentioned to Sandra that their home was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Funny I never caught that before when I watched it but I did this time. lol
So naturally I had to pay close attention to the home and you could tell then it was one of his designs.
Did not mean to write you a book.
Hope you get a chance to enter my new giveaway that ends Friday.
Don't give up your number is bound to come up one of these times.
Love ya
Maggie

Dimple said...

Our country is fascinating. I have never been to the Badlands: it is beautiful. Thanks for sharing the history!

I enjoyed your first snow, also, and the follow-up on your Christmas activities. My decorations are few this year, as I am rather blocked in with my recently deceased aunt's possessions, but I have retrieved the few which were accessible and set them up. The tree is a tiny one decorated to look like a forest tree which sits on a corner of my bathroom counter, and two angels grace the bookshelves in the living room, with a knitted nativity nearby. It is enough.

Blessings to you and yours!

Arkansas Patti said...

There is so much you explained that I had no idea about this area. I do hope people do obey the "do not touch" message.
What an amazing place, beautiful yet not for the novice.

rosaria said...

I have never been to the Badlands, and had no idea of its importance. I had seen the Frank Lloyd Wright's house, but considering the geology of the place, the project must have been quite a challenge.

jeannette said...

So beautiful! And thank you for sharing some of the history! Have a very merry Christmas, for you and yours")