This is the last of our outing today, or part three. As indicated in the last post, too much seen to put in one and wanted to break them out. The map tracking is off because of this, but still wanted to annotate where the places were located in relation to where we are staying.
South Dakotans began petitioning Congress to set aside a portion of the Badlands as a preserve as early as 1909. The area was designated Badlands National Monument in 1939, and then given National Park status in 1978.
Jerry opted to have our return trip to Ellsworth take us through the more southerly route of the Badlands and not along the usual traveled scenic route through the park. We had taken the more scenic route when we were visiting this area back in 2007, so taking another route through the park appealed to us both. This was the route the “natives” take to pass through the one segment of the park to get to their destinations. And off we embarked (I’ve included a map showing the park and the route we took through it – also Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is shown on this map as well).
Driving through the Badlands is as otherworldly as land can be; soft clays and sandstones were deposited as sediments 26-27 million years ago by streams from the Black Hills and left vast plains. It’s an eerie moonscape of deep gorges and jagged saw-tooth ridges with rock layers painted in subtle hues of sand, rose, gold and green. This once rich landscape attracted a community of ancient creatures. Erosion continues to this day, frequently revealing long-buried fossils. Remains of three-toed horses, dog-sized camels, and saber-toothed cats have been discovered here. They’re considered some of the world’s richest vertebrate fossil sites. More than 250,000 fossils have been collected in this area.
Eventually humans stumbled upon this seemingly hostile land. Upon arriving in the Badlands, native tribes called it “mako sica”, meaning “land bad”. French Canadian trappers who traveled through its rugged terrain in the early 1800s dubbed it “les mauvaises terres a traverse”, or “bad lands to travel across”. One can readily understand when you see the peaks, gullies, buttes, and wide prairies of the Badlands why they were intimidating and challenging to cross. Yet, they have long attracted the interest and praise of travelers.
Badlands National Park comprises 244,000 acres of land, with wilderness areas of 64,144 acres. The park is the largest expanse of protected prairie ecosystem in the National Park system. And fifty percent of the park, referred to as the South Unit, is co-managed with the Oglala Lakota Sioux Nation
We particularly liked the quote from Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect, made in 1935 after his first visit to the Badlands when he wrote, “I’ve been about the world a lot, and pretty much over our own country, but I was totally unprepared for that revelation called the Dakota Bad Lands . . .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.”
It is definitely one of those places that you would drive through any time you were going to be close by just to see the beauty of the landscape knowing every time it looks totally different depending on the time of day, year, or season. We were driving through near the end of the day and heading into a rainstorm; it was still very beautiful as I hope our pictures will show you.
Till the next time . . .