I had the best day yesterday at the Badlands. The weather was cooler, there was a nice breeze, and clouds gave a break to the solstice sun. I saw bighorn sheep, bison, prairie dogs, and a ton of swallows. My favorite sensory moment was hearing the sound of the wind through the grass.
The Lakota gave this land its name, “Mako Sica,” meaning “land bad.” Located in southwestern South Dakota, Badlands National Park consists of 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires blended with the largest protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. It is desolation at its truest, where you can look for miles and see no sign of civilization.
This land has been so ruthlessly ravaged by wind and water that it has become picturesque. The Badlands are a wonderland of bizarre, colorful spires and pinnacles, massive buttes and deep gorges. Erosion of the Badlands reveals sedimentary layers of different colors: purple and yellow (shale), tan and gray (sand and gravel), red and orange (iron oxides) and white (volcanic ash).
Badlands National Park also preserves the world’s greatest fossil beds of animals from the Oligocene Epoch of the Age of Mammals. The skeletons of ancient camels, three-toed horses, saber-toothed cats and giant rhinoceros-like creatures are among the many fossilized species found here. All fossils, rocks, plants and animals are protected and must remain where you find them. Prehistoric bones are still being uncovered today by park officials.