THE EERIE, FASCINATING WORLD OF THE BADLANDS.Byline: Zeke Wigglesworth Knight-Ridder Tribune News Wire
The French, you will recall, first started messing around in our sandbox back in the 17th century.
By the middle of the 18th century, these persistent Europeans had seen about everything there was to see west of the Alleghenies (eradicating most of the beaver in North America North America, third largest continent (1990 est. pop. 365,000,000), c.9,400,000 sq mi (24,346,000 sq km), the northern of the two continents of the Western Hemisphere. in the process).
So it comes as no great surprise to note that a French explorer, or maybe two, came wandering through a chunk of western South Dakota South Dakota (dəkō`tə), state in the N central United States. It is bordered by North Dakota (N), Minnesota and Iowa (E), Nebraska (S), and Wyoming and Montana (W). one day and chanced upon a landscape that would dismay even the most travel-hardy Gaul.
``This neighborhood is tough, a real bad land to cross,'' he said, albeit in French. (All he had to do was ask a local. The Sioux, who had moved into the Black Hills area a few years before, already had an expression to describe the area - and, guess what, it translated out as ``bad lands.'')
So the accepted name for the rugged and uncommon topography of the region, now known as Badlands National Park Badlands National Park: see under badlands. , became semi-scientific. ``Badlands'' now generically refers to most any landscape with elevated areas that have been severely eroded and deeply cut by ravines and small canyons. A semi-arid climate A Semi-arid climate or steppe climate generally describes climatic regions that receive low annual rainfall (250-500 mm or 10-20 in). A more precise definition is given by the Köppen climate classification that treats steppe climates (BS) as intermediates between the desert and occasional torrential downpours are also common badlands badlands, area of severe erosion, usually found in semiarid climates and characterized by countless gullies, steep ridges, and sparse vegetation. Badland topography is formed on poorly cemented sediments that have few deep-rooted plants because short, heavy showers traits.
There are two protected badlands areas in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. : the South Dakota national park (about 380 square miles) and Theodore Roosevelt National Park Theodore Roosevelt National Park, 70,447 acres (28,531 hectares), W N.Dak., in the Badlands and on the Little Missouri River; est. 1947. There are three units—the North Unit, the Elkhorn Ranch Unit, and the South Unit. in North Dakota (about 110 square miles).
What is most striking about the badlands is their apparent desolation. There seems to be little vegetation or animal life - just a rugged landscape of dramatic, multicolored formations of shale and limestones.
Appearances are deceiving. Badlands National Park is rife with animal life - both alive and long dead. You want a home where the deer and the pronghorn antelope pronghorn antelope
a fast-moving, wild North American ruminant with hollow core, branched horns which shed their outer sheath each year. Called also Antilocapra americana. play? Here they are, along with re-introduced bighorn sheep Bighorn sheep
a tall (up to 3 ft), heavy (up to 300 lb body weight) wild sheep that lives in inaccessible mountain country where it exercises its principal achievement of prodigious leaping and climbing. Called also Ovis canadensis. Several regional varieties, e.g. O. c. and bison, prairie dogs, coyotes, badgers, rabbits, Western meadowlarks, swifts, wrens, golden eagles, magpies, rattlesnakes.
The park is also a haven for more than 50 species of grasses, many of which are now long gone from most of the American landscape.
Badlands National Park is also the site of one of the most important fossil beds in the country. The park's soils contain one of the most extensive deposits of ancient mammal fossils dating from the Oligocene period, about 65 million years ago, including three-toed horses, sabre-toothed cats and giant pigs.
This is not a national park for all tastes. It's off the beaten path, accommodations and services are just adequate, and the terrain and climatic conditions can be hard on the body. It is a place, however, for hikers, birders, botanists and those who like wild landscapes.
If you're not an avid hiker, or are not thrilled about heat and rattlesnakes, the best way to see the wonders of the park is by taking the so-called Badlands Loop driving tour (Highway 240). It starts at the Cactus Flat entrance to the park off Interstate 90 and winds its way around (and up and down) for 40-odd miles.
Along the way are more than a dozen overlooks, every one a dazzler. At the Cedar Pass Visitor Center are a small motel, gas station and restaurant, plus the usual facilities offered by the National Park Service.
If you want to stretch your legs, try one of the shorter trails leading from the visitor center, especially the three called Door, Window and Notch (named after geological formations). The Door trail concentrates on fossil formations; Window has splendid views of the splendid desolation; and Notch leads to a great photo stop with jagged formations and a natural window in the rocks.
Hiking is available all over the park, and trails range from easy to difficult. Some of the best serious hikes are in the Sage Creek Wilderness area of the park.
The Badlands park, while worth a visit by itself, is usually combined as part of a tour of western South Dakota's other, and more major, attractions. Included are:
Mount Rushmore National Memorial Mount Rushmore National Memorial, 1,278 acres (518 hectares), SW S.Dak., in the Black Hills; est. 1925, dedicated 1927. There, carved on the face of the mountain and visible for 60 mi (97 km), are the enormous (60 ft/18.3 m high) heads of four U.S. , about 25 miles from Rapid City, where the faces of four American presidents are carved into a granite cliff.
Deadwood Deadwood, city (1990 pop. 1,830), seat of Lawrence co., W S.Dak.; settled 1876 after discovery of gold. A Black Hills tourist center, it is also a trade hub for a lumbering, stock-raising, and mining region. , an ``authentic'' Old West city, wall to wall with casinos and tons of hype about several local heroes including Deadwood Dick, Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok Not to be confused with William "Wild Bill" Hickok, American football player.
James Butler Hickok (May 27, 1837 – August 2, 1876), better known as Wild Bill Hickok, was a legendary figure in the American Old West. . Nearby is Sturgis, where every August, thousands of Harley riders show up for their annual bash. And also nearby is Lead (pronounced leed), where you can see one of the largest open-pit gold mines in the world.
Jewel Cave National Monument Jewel Cave National Monument: see National Parks and Monuments (table).
Jewel Cave National Monument
National monument, southwestern South Dakota, U.S. Established in 1908, it occupies an area of 2 sq mi (5 sq km). , about 30 miles from Rapid City, with more than 90 miles of explored areas. It is reputed to be the fourth-largest cave in the world, and gets its name from glittering calcite calcite (kăl`sīt), very widely distributed mineral, commonly white or colorless, but appearing in a great variety of colors owing to impurities. deposits on the cave walls.
Wind Cave National Park Wind Cave National Park, 28,295 acres (11,459 hectares), in the Black Hills, SW S.Dak.; est. 1903. Wind Cave, discovered in 1881, was named for the strong air currents that blow alternately in and out of it depending on whether the atmospheric pressure is higher or , which, as the name suggests, has noticeable wind currents and is formed from the same vast limestone deposits that underpin most of the Black Hills area. It is also the location of one of the state's largest prairie dog populations.
The geology that created the caves in the area, as well as the Black Hills themselves, eventually created the badlands. Soil eroded from the mountains piled up over the eons, and then later was eroded itself, leaving the rugged escarpments and canyons that make up today's badlands.
Crazy Horse is in the process of becoming the fifth granite face in the Black Hills. It was started by Korczak Ziolkowski, who worked with Gutzon Borglum, sculptor of Mount Rushmore.
The new carving honoring the Sioux leader who led the attacks at Little Big Horn is huge - all four of the Mount Rushmore heads could fit inside the chief's head.
Completed, the sculpture will be 563 feet high and 641 feet long. Work has been going on for almost 50 years; Ziolkowski's descendants hope to finish the work by 1998. It is about 15 miles from Mount Rushmore.
Custer State Park Custer State Park is a state park and wildlife reserve in the Black Hills of southwestern South Dakota, USA. The park is South Dakota's largest and first state park. The area originally started out as sixteen sections, but was later changed into one block of land because of the , one of the largest state parks in the nation, adjacent to Mount Rushmore. Its 73,000 acres include excellent hiking trails and one of the largest free-ranging bison herds in the West.
The best time - and the best way - to see the Badlands is when nobody else is around. Just sit on a cliff edge, listen to the wind whistle through the arroyos, watch golden eagles soar on the thermals ... and remind yourself there are few better places to be than here.
For information about the Badlands, write Park Superintendent, Badlands National Park, Box 6, Interior, S.D. 57750; (605) 433-5361.
Photo: The desolate landscape with its fantastical roc k formations gives South Dakota's Badlands its name.
Knight-Ridder Tribune News Service
Box: On Location (See Text)