Badlands National Park is situated in South Dakota, USA and covers over 200,000 acres of land. Many people have headed to the area to see the striped rock formations since it was established as a national park in 1978. There were over one million visitors to the site in 2017.
It’s a long-forgotten sea
Well, it isn’t a sea anymore, but it used to be. Over 75 million years ago the rock formations began taking shape under the surface of a shallow ocean. The water gradually receded but it left its mark on the landscape. Leaving behind formations of silt, sand, and clay, each stripe in the rocks represents different types of sediment. There were several fossils discovered at the site thanks to the fact the sea used to inhabit marine creatures. Besides the sea sculpting the landscape, the nearby rivers carved the land which resulted in the numerous peaks and cliffs many people now flock to with the intentions of getting a good look at them.
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You’ll see more than rocks
Sure it is famous for its distinctive rock formations, but that isn’t all there is to see there. The park is home to one of the USA’s largest prairies and grasslands. You can expect to wander through grassy areas with the plantlife tickling both your ankles and your waist. There is an abundance of plant life in its ecosystem, over 400 species have been discovered so far.
Ferrets are flourishing there
Black-footed ferrets used to roam all across the Great Plains but were almost driven to extinction in the 20th Century. Thankfully a small number of the animals was found in the ‘80s, and a breeding program was soon put in place to try to conserve and re-introduce the species to the area. After years of hard work by conservationists, the ferrets are now beginning to flourish in the environment, but are still considered endangered. The ferrets mainly eat prairie dogs, but once the prairie dog population began to dwindle the ferrets soon followed suit. Animal conservationists saw fit to reintroduce the ferrets to Badlands in 1994, and they are now roaming around as if they own the place.
The Badlands were the hunting grounds of indigenous tribes thousands of years before it was taken from them during the 19th century. The natives were pushed from their homes by early settlers in South Dakota. A Native American prophet tried to rid the area of its new inhabitants by performing “ghost dances” which his followers would copy in the Badlands. This dance was done while the dancers would wear “ghost shirts” which they believed were bulletproof. Unfortunately, they were not bulletproof, and the dances were abruptly ended in a massacre. The Wounded Knee Massacre, as it is known, resulted in 300 Natives being shot in 1890 by the US Cavalry.
Visitors are allowed to navigate their own way through the rock formations which is just another reason why people flock there every year, it’s a great hike! Those were some of the lesser known facts about Badlands National Park, hopefully there were a few surprises in there for you.