Welcome to this travel blog which is inspired by the wandering clouds effortlessly gliding through distant lands. Sometimes almost still as if watching the beauty of the earth below and at times rushing to some place far away – as if on an endless travel mission. This is where I share my observations, experiences and thoughts gathered during my travels

Friday, January 13, 2012

Badlands


Driving eastwards on Interstate 90 in South Dakota, we ran into some very unpredictable weather. When we started, it was bright and sunny but suddenly out of the blue, the skies were covered with thick black rain clouds. We were on our way to the Badlands National Park and before we could decide whether to go ahead with the plans or call it a day, it started pouring. The rains were lashing hard on the window panes and we could barely see the signboards. Our gut sense was that we had at least one more hour to drive. Despite the thunderstorms and lightning, we braved our way towards the Park. We thought that it would be much better to drive towards our destination rather than face the same bad weather to go back to the hotel. We exited at a city called Wall, which is named after the sight of Badlands Wall and just followed the map.


As we approached the Badlands National Park, the rains had stopped but the skies were still overcast. We were glad to find that the Park was open 24 x 7. After paying for the entrance, we collected a route map from the Ranger and proceeded to drive along Highway 240 Loop Road which takes you around the scenic way through the North Part of the Badlands Park. The drive along this route was absolutely fascinating and we came face to face with some geological wonders that we had never even imagined.

The Park is characterized by a rugged eerie looking landscape which is a product of millions of years of deposition and erosion. The deposits of sediments started 69 million years ago and continued until 28 million years ago. At this time, some of the depositions were also due to volcanic eruptions. Then, approximately half a million years ago, erosion of the Badlands began and the changing shape of the landscape is due to this process of continuous erosion. In fact, the rate of erosion at Badlands is one of the highest (@ one inch per year) and it is estimated that after another half a million years, Badlands would have completely eroded from the surface of our Earth. Given that it has seen deposition over so many years, Badlands is one of the richest sources of accumulated fossils. Due to its extreme climate, the Indian tribe Lakota named it Mako Sica which means Badlands in their native language.

The drive along Hwy 240 was very scenic and there was hardly anyone around. We were completely on our own, in the middle of a ghostlike landscape, under overcast skies, marveling at every canyon, every sharp peak, and every spire that had got created though the interplay of wind, rain and snow over the years. We only had a few rabbits and wild deer to give us company. The drive had some steep inclines and hairpin bends, but it was by and large straightforward. We passed by Yellow Mounds overlook, Conata Basin Overlook, Homestead, Burns Basin, Big foot pass, Panorama Point, and the White River Valley Overlook. The yellow and red layers of soil found in the Badlands are fossilized soils called paleosols. We had to be extremely cautious while walking on the mounds as some of them had become very brittle and slippery. At times, we came across vast and deep canyons that stretched towards the horizon. Some of the peculiar formations looked so creepy as if they were taken from some supernatural movie. To add to this, there was occasional lightning and thundering. The whole experience was unforgettable.

The Badlands has what is called the mixed grass praire ecosystem with a combination of tall and short grass. It is also home to some of the rare species including the Black footed ferret, one of the rarest mammals, that was reintroduced successfully inside the Park’s ecosystem.  We found that there were several places marked for hiking and camping and 25% of the park is officially declared a ‘wilderness area’. We then reached the Ben Riefel Visitor Centre which covers the North Part of the Park. At this place, we did find a few other visitors and some sign of human presence. The South Part of the Park has another visitor centre called the White River Centre and that section of the Park is managed along with the Oglala-Lakota tribe. As we did not have a lot of time, we decided to skip going around the South Part and instead spent more time at the scenic spots in the North Part itself.

Here are some of the shots that give a sense of what kind of a place Badlands is. We had no idea that it would be so out-of-this-world, I am so glad we braved the ruthless rains. 













40 comments:

  1. The patterns on the mountains are amazing. And that is a lightning in the pic second from last I am sure.

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  2. What a stunning landscape. Yet, another region of the United States to add to my bucket list. So much to see... so little time.

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  3. Excellent landscape photography and an equally interesting write up

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  4. These are gorgeous photos - that one with the lightning is amazing! My partner has always wanted to visit the Badlands, but when we were traveling around the U.S. we never made it up there.

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  5. The rain gods always make the trip a memorable one :)
    Superb snaps again, the landscape and the roads - heavenly !!
    Hats off to the detailed report.

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  6. Wow. the green grass on the mountains look amazing.

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  7. Its heaven....I am starving to explore this place now :)

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  8. @Indrani - Yes the patterns are absolutely fascinating, each hill with a slightly different proportion but yet all fitting into the pattern. The lightning shot was a bonus!
    @25Bar and Deepam - Thanks!
    @Jim - Thanks, it is so unusual. Hope you get to see it sometime.
    @Arnab - Thanks for your compliments. Pictures are courtesy Mahesh.
    @Christy - Thanks! That entire region has so much to see, it requires a good few weeks.
    @Karthik - I could not agree more about the rains. That along with the little sunshine gave the best light conditions for these shots.
    @Ajeya - I have an entire collection of the different patterns the green patches have made on the Badlands - like the starfish, or the jumping rabbit. Thanks!

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    1. These look simply great. I must visit here if I travel again. I wish I had known of this place during our trip to South Dakota in 2005 where we only so the Mount Rushmore and Devil's tower. :-( I assume this visit of yours was in Summer.

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    2. Yes, it was in summer. That entire region is amazing and can easily take a few weeks to see at leisure.

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  9. @Rahul - you should visit and guess what, one can explore the place trekking, cycling and even on a horseback!

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  10. Such natural beauty! Thanks for sharing with us.

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  11. fascinating... never thought barren land could be so beautiful

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  12. @Nancy - Thanks!!
    @Prasad - yes, that is indeed the beauty of Badlands! Thanks.

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  13. Gr8 snaps and tq for the comment on my chilika post. Have a nice day!

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  14. Weird how a place so magnificent is called 'Badlands'!! And having to travel through a storm to get there is SO appropriate!!

    Have a great day!

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  15. @magiceye and Avalok - thanks!
    @Red Nomad OZ - Actually the name got us really interested in the place and facing the storm was well worth it.

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  16. WOW SITE :) wish to be there :( looks like MARS(haven't visited mars either:P :P
    -DeepaK

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  17. Awesome....love the picture and write up

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  18. now that was well worth the rain (or pain)! the place is amazing. and hats off on the photos...stunning work, superb compositions...the use of lines is excellent! and the lightening photo is the icing :)

    Cheers,
    Saturday Sareenity

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  19. Man!! These are seriously beautiful.

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  20. @Deepak Karthik - Thanks, the landscape is very unusual.
    @Burhan - Thanks!
    @Rohit - Thanks, pictures are courtesy Mahesh. He did not realise that he had managed to capture the lightening until he had completed taking all the shots.
    @Arun - Thanks!

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  21. They are actually called Badlands? They look lovely and inviting...must visit when I am there next! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Yes, Priya. Titles are misleading, aren't they? Thanks!

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  22. Very nice post with interesting photographs

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  23. The way the road just merges into the Badlands in pic#5... amazing composition.
    Bookmarking this page for planning my next trip.

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  24. Replies
    1. Rajyalakshmi and Picture- thanks for dropping by and for the compliments! Do visit again.

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  25. I have always enjoyed reading your posts. Haven't commented on all but have tried to read most of them. Now, I would like to pass an award onto you. http://interstate42.blogspot.com/p/updates.html
    Once again, thanks for your posts. Reminds me each time that I really got to travel more.

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    1. Kirklops - Thanks for taking time to visit the blog and for the appreciation through this award :) It is encouraging!
      Am sure you will have many many opportunities to travel and get surprised everytime. Cheers!!!

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  26. So Amazing...
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