Into the Badlands
Jul 22, 2005
|Friday, 22nd of July
We have so much to see and experience in America! Traveling across our country like this, we are reminded what different lives we all live. So much is determined by the climate, and terrain. We drove west in South Dakota today, through level and gently rolling, fertile farmland. Farming is definitely the livelihood of this part of the state. The residents grow corn, soy beans, sorghum, wheat, and other grains. Mile after mile you see these beautiful fields, and now and then a home, along with the barns, silos, and grain bins. Neat, green grass and shelter belt trees surround the buildings, providing protection from the high winds and much needed shade. Not much space is wasted for large yards.
We have seen a variety of cattle - Longhorns, Herefords, Angus and Brahmas. We found it interesting how they often stand in a group in the water of the pot hole ponds up to their bellies, in an attempt to keep some of the flies from biting.
An antique mall in Hartford, South Dakota provided an hour or two of fun! Many of the items for sale, are similar to those we see in New England, but we found many interesting cowboy and Indian artifacts, plus farm tools and equipment. Myrna purchased a tall, narrow cupboard which she had shipped back home to New Jersey. She will use it to display some of her collection of antique dolls or dishes. She and Butch don't worry much about having enough space for their collections, as they have a extremely large barn with a second floor which they use only for displaying antiques.
We read an interesting fact about the city of Chamberlain, in western South Dakota. The area along the Missouri River valley is eroding and many prehistoric fossils have been uncovered. One dinosaur fossil was found which dates back 78 million years!
Wall Drug was our next stop, in Wall, South Dakota. Driving west in the state, you see many billboards advertising this well known store, pharmacy, museum, and restaurants all in one. They have an incredible collection of photographs from the old west, mostly all produced from old glass negatives. Artifacts, fossils, firearms, and old ranching and mining equipment are some of the interesting displays. We ate a quick dinner at the restaurant in Wall Drug and then drove into the Badlands National Park.
It is difficult to describe the Badlands and no photograph is going to do the area justice! It is beautiful, and definitely unique! The story starts during the Cretaceous Era, a time more than 70 million years ago. Dinosaurs were the dominant animals, and North America was divided by a shallow inland sea (the Pierre Sea), stretching north and south across the middle of the continent. A period of massive uplift began in Cretaceous time and eventually thrust up the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and the Black Hills. The slowly growing mountains continued their gradual rise (about 55 million years ago), causing the Pierre Sea to drain away to the north and south. During this time, erosion gouged into the Pierre Shale, creating a rolling, hilly landscape. About 37 million years ago, sediments washed down from the BlackHills to be deposited in the Badlands area. Streams filled an ancient valley, spreading sediment.
The last major uplift of the Rocky Mountains and the Black Hills occurred about 4.5 million years ago. Mostly clays and silts, Badlands rocks are easily eroded. The formations are rich in fossils, but only a few hardy species, such as the exotic tumbleweed can survive in the poor soil.
Prairies surround the Badlands, with numerous species of grass surviving in the heat and wind. A definite lack of trees and flat land makes for an open landscape. Rainy seasons allow the grasses to grow, but severe droughts follow. Prairie weather is described as "extreme", with temperatures exceeding 110 degrees F in the summer and -35 degrees F in the winter, with strong storms, almost constant wind, blizzards, hail, and tornadoes. The animals and people must certainly be hardy to live in this area!
Riding over the roads in the National Park, we watched Bighorn Sheep (which were reintroduced into the area in 1964), Mule deer, and Prairie Dogs. They must be living well, as we saw several young sheep and deer. As we often say, "a great place to visit, but we wouldn't want to live here!"
We are staying for 2 nights at a KOA campground in Interior, South Dakota. Fortunately, they have shaded sites and good facilities, including a swimming pool.