How Did Badlands National Park Get Its Name? | Black Hills Travel Blog

How Did Badlands National Park Get Its Name?

  • How Did Badlands National Park Get Its Name?
    How Did Badlands National Park Get Its Name?
Thursday, April 9, 2020
By : 

 As a resident of the beautiful Black Hills, I've become accustomed to meeting travelers that are excited to tour and experience all of the unique attractions and natural wonders of the area. Everyone is usually looking for the best insider tips on the must-see attractions, awe-inspiring monuments, breathtaking parks and mouth-watering dishes to indulge in during their visit. At some point in the conversation, I am sure to recommend a trip through Badlands National Park.

I usually have to liken the experience to what I would picture if I landed on the moon, because the Badlands just feel so foreign and misplaced to me. Out of nowhere, the scenery instantly changes into harsh terrain of heavily eroded, intricate mazes of narrow ravines, v-shaped gullies, knife-sharp ridges, buttes, and colorful pinnacles. The question then is usually, "Why are they called the Badlands?"

The Lakota people were the first to call this place "mako sica" or "land bad." Extreme temperatures, lack of water, and the exposed rugged terrain led to this name. French-Canadian fur trappers also called it "les mauvais terres pour traverse," or "bad lands to travel through." Today, the term ‘badlands’ has a more geologic definition. Badlands form when soft sedimentary rock is extensively eroded in a dry climate. The park's typical scenery of sharp spires, gullies, and ridges is a premier example of badlands topography.

Because floods and winds have swept away so much of the soil and rock in badlands areas, dinosaur and other kinds of fossils often show up. Badlands National Park is home to the richest Oligocene epoch fossilbed in the world. Fossil remains of ancient horses, sheep, rhinoceroses, and pigs have been found here. Although by definition badlands contain very little vegetation, some plants are found in South Dakota's Badlands; primarily prairie grasses. In fact, the South Dakota Badlands are the largest protected mixed grass prairie land in the United States.

A visit to Badlands National Park can be as intensive as you choose. The scenic byway can allow travelers beautiful views of the park from the comfort of their vehicle. For others looking for a chance to burn off some energy, pull over and enjoy a hike on the Notch Trail – an adventurous 1.5 mile hike up a badlands canyon to an elevated overlook with sensational views. With over 244,000 acres, you are sure to enjoy some good times in the Badlands!  

To discover more parks and monuments in the Black Hills and Badlands, visit the Parks & Monuments page.

You May Also Be interested In