Badlands National Park
Established as Badlands National Monument on the 4th of March 1929 and on the 25th of January 1939, then-President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed the park a national monument. The Park is made up of about 244,000 acres of spires, eroded buttes and pinnacles combined with the biggest protected mixed grass steppe in the United States.
75 million years ago, the whole area was a shallow ocean. Traces of this ocean can still be found today as evidenced in the silver-colored layers of shale that outlines all the buttes in the park. This shale, called “The Pierre Shale” is rich with the fossils of prehistoric creatures. Today, many paleontologists search and dig around the area looking to unlock other secrets that might be hidden under the park grounds.
The Lakota referred to the place as “mako sica” and early French trappers named the area “les mauvaises terres a traverser”. Both names mean “bad lands.” The earliest people to come inhabit the place were ancient mammoth hunters. Later, they were followed by nomadic tribes whose lives were centered on bison hunting. The Arikara was the first tribe known to have inhabited the White River area. By the mid 18th century, they were replaced by the Sioux, otherwise known as the Lakota, who adopted the use of horses from the Spaniards and came to dominate the region.
In 1846, a St. Louis physician named Dr. Hiram A. Prout was sent a fossilized jaw fragment found by Alexander Culbertson. Dr. Prout published a paper about it and unintentionally sparked the popularity of the White River Badlands as fossil hunting grounds.
The Badlands Wilderness has designated 64,250 acres of the park as protected areas. It is also the site for the reintegration of the black-footed ferret, North America’s most endangered land mammal. The Stronghold unit, located within the Pine Ridge Indian Reserve is where you’ll find the Stronghold Table, the place where the Sioux Indians performed the ghost dance for the last time in 1890.
The Badlands National Park is oftentimes considered to be the best place to relax one’s mind. With his peaceful atmosphere and attractive natural beauty, Badlands National Park is a great getaway from all the toils of city living. If you go deep enough the park, you will find no trace of the current century for no telephone poles or antennas will block your viewing of this magnificent place.