There’s More To North Dakota’s Badlands Than Beauty
As the weather finally starts to break, you might find yourself looking to get out and go for a drive. If you find yourself wondering where exactly should you go, let me suggest topping off the tank, turning up the radio, and then heading south to check out the Badlands.
Any time of the year is perfect. I enjoy spring and fall the most. There is just something magical about the view during those seasons. Then the gears start turning, and I start thinking about how they were made, and all the history they hold. Let's explore the Badlands here before you go on your next road trip.
According to the National Park Service, the first humans to see this area were Native Americans. Modern tribes like the Lakota called this land "mako sica" (mah-koh see-kah). This has been translated into "badlands." Some of the first European explorers came up with similar names. French traders called it a "bad land to travel." For traveling, I totally agree. There is nothing bad about the view though.
North Dakota's Badlands cover roughly 190 square miles according to peakvisor.com. Another interesting fact is the highest peak in North Dakota is actually in the Badlands. It's called White Butte. It's located in Slope County, and the elevation is 3501 feet!
Mother Nature's Zoo
The Badlands are home to a diverse array of wildlife, including bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, coyotes, and golden eagles. It still holds true today...DO NOT TRY TO PET THE ANIMALS!
Science In Front Of Your Eyes
The study of the earth is known as geology. The Badlands allow us to see ancient earth layers without having to dig or create computer models. Walking through Theodore Roosevelt National Park, you can see rocks that were formed millions of years ago! Weathering and erosion have both contributed to the visibility of these rocks. Sediments are these layers of ash, sand, and mud. They squish together to form rocks after being buried for a long time. They are known as sedimentary rocks. Sedimentary rocks include sandstone, limestone, and shale. Mr. Olson at WSC would be proud of me to even remember this stuff!
Teddy Roosevelt Loved This Area
No matter where you land politically, serving nationally must be stressful. Teddy Roosevelt found the badlands in the fall of 1883 while he was a legislator from New York. By the end of his 15-day hunting trip, his enthusiasm for the possibilities of the cattle industry led him to invest in the Maltese Cross Ranch, near Medora. His experiences in the Badlands inspired him to become an advocate for conservation and the protection of natural resources. Oh, and the park where the badlands are located is named after him.
Badlands or Sacred Lands
To many though they are sacred lands too. People have traveled to the badlands for a variety of spiritual reasons. Buttes in western North Dakota served as stopping points for traveling tribes, and these striking features of the landscape were significant in their spirituality. Many groups considered the buttes to be the homes of animal spirits, and a trip to a particular butte might include medicine-making rituals specific to that bluff's animal spirit. The badlands held spiritual significance as well. Isolated, steep-sloped bluffs were ideal locations for vision quests. Vision quests took many forms, but they all involved isolation, prayer, and fasting from food and water in order to receive a vision from the spirit world. You can read more about the culture here.
So as you drive through the Badlands of North Dakota, enjoy the view, and think about all the history that passed through those lands. It's just another thing that makes North Dakota even better!