Badlands National Park spreads for more than 240,000 acres across the southwestern part of South Dakota. It is known for its rugged landscape of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and other geological features. Given this largely inhospitable terrain, it is also surprising to learn that Badlands includes the largest, protected mixed grass prairie in the United States.
The erosion constantly taking place in Badlands has made the area a rich source of fossils, especially of Oligocene-era mammals that roamed the region 33 million years ago. In addition, the whole area was at one time under water and fossilized seashells and turtle shells have also been found.
I made an effort to arrive at Badlands in the early morning to catch the first rays of the sun as they light up the rocks and bring out the natural colors. Although it was June, it was still quite cool in the early morning, leading to a low-lying fog that enhanced the view until the sun brightened and burned it away. While the geologic features of Badlands pale by comparison to the splendors of the American southwest, the National Park is well worth a visit if you find yourself anywhere nearby.
For more information about U.S. National Parks in general, visit the web site of the National Park Service.