Driving eastwards on Interstate 90 in
, 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 South Dakota 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. Badlands National Park
As we approached the
, 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 National 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. Badlands Park
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.
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.