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Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park is located in Southwestern south Dakota and is 244,000 acres of beautiful rock formations including buttes, pinnacles. 64,000 acres of this are “Official Wilderness” with no development of any sort. In one of said areas, the Sage Creek Wilderness, they have reintroduced one of the most endangered land mammals in North America, the Black Footed Ferret. Of the original natives of this area, most notable are the Oglala Sioux tribe and this was the site of the ghost dances in the late 1800’s.blackfooted_ferret.jpg

It was established in 1939 as Badlands National Monument and changed to a National Park in 1978 and contains the worlds most extensive fossil beds from the Oligocene epoch. In studying these beds you can trace the evolution of such mammal species as horse, pig rhinoceros and sheep.

The Badlands have a vast and colorful human history. Dating back as far as 11,00 years ago the Native Americans have been using this area for their hunting grounds. There were the Paleo-Indians about which little is known, followed by the Arikara. Some of the descendants still live in the area today and are part of the affiliated tribes. Oral tradition which is a large part of the Native American culture along with intense Archaeological study points towards the fact that these people would make camp in protected valleys where they could find game, fish, and fresh water year around. From the top of the Badlands wall sentries would watch for approaching enemies or herds wandering by. For the fossil hunter, where water has eroded some of the stream banks charcoal and rocks from their fires as well as tools and arrowheads may still be seen today. Though it is stictly forbidden to remove anything from the park, just seeing them, and knowing that you are looking into a past civilization, is thrill enough.

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Homesteaders began trickling into the area before the end of the Civil War, but had no real impact on the Badlands until the early 20th century. In the 1930’s the dust bowl, along with swarms of grasshoppers that would destroy anything and everything in their path prompted all but the most determined to give up their homes which were built mostly of sod and heated by burning buffalo chips. A few very hardy pioneers chose to stay and many of their descendants remain today ranching or raising wheat as a crop.

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Some of the main tourist attractions are the Wounded Knee Museum, the Wildlife Museum, the Minuteman Missile site and wind cave National Park, but whether you choose to visit these attractions or not, the haunting landscape and sense of our nations history will surely make it a trip well worth taking.


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