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Badlands

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The Badlands is a region in the USA that includes western South Dakota and North Dakota marked by rugged terrain and formations that resemble a science fiction landscape of another world. These rock formations take on the shapes of domes, twisted canyons and slanted walls, often striped in different colors.

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  • Badlands National Park, covering about 242,000 acres, is located in southwestern South Dakota. The park contains the largest, protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. The most endangered land mammal in North America, the black footed ferret, was re-introduced to the 64,000-acres Badlands Wilderness Area. The park also contains the world's richest fossil beds from the Oligocene epoch, dating back around 20-35 million years. The park hosts approximately a million visitors each year.

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During the youth of the Rocky Mountains, about 60 million years ago, large number of streams carried eroded soil, rock and other materials eastward from the range. These materials were deposited on the vast lowlands which are today called the Great Plains. Dense vegetation grew in these lowlands, then fell into swamps, and was later buried by new layers of sediments. Millions of years later, this plant material turned into lignite coal. Some of the plant life became petrified, and we can find large amounts of exposed petrified wood in the badlands. While sediments continued to be deposited, more streams cut down through the soft rock layers, carving the variety of mesas, buttes, rock formations, pinnacles, spires and valleys are the features of the badlands seen today.

While the badlands terrain may appear to be barren, there is a great variety of wildlife and plant life here. The minimal annual precipitation feeds the grasses and wildflowers of the badlands. The brilliant colors of the blooms add to the palette of grays, browns, reds, ochres and greens of the land. The wildlife includes nearly two hundred species of birds, deer, prairie dogs, elk and bison.

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