Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

The Badlands

Badlands 1 (9432, 10-24-13)

Before we started to travel (about 10 years ago), the only thing I knew about the “Badlands” was that there was a national park with that name somewhere in South Dakota.  In fact, when our son moved from Rochester to Las Vegas (in 2004?) he asked me if he and his wife would go through any badlands on their way west.  I told him no, that he’d be driving well south of South Dakota and he’d miss them.

Well, guess what – I was wrong (again).  Yes, there is a Badlands NP in South Dakota, but there are a number of other “badlands” in the western part of the U. S.  Some of them are even “badder” (in my opinion) than the more famous one in South Dakota.  The area just to the east of Capitol Reef in Utah, for example, is one of the best examples of badlands I’ve ever seen. Others include the Chinle Badlands in Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument in Utah and Hell’s Half-Acre in Wyoming.  All of them are “bad”.  Which, in general, simply means that they contain very dry terrain, very little vegetation, and tend to be liberally populated with ravines, canyons, and hoodoos.  You wouldn’t want to build a house in one of these places (although people have).  Even walking through this stuff can be difficult.

The images here, though, are all from the NP in South Dakota.  We stopped for about half a day here before heading for Deadwood, SD.

Badlands 2 (9456, 10-24-13)

And once again I have to say that I haven’t “enhanced” any of these with additional saturation.  The color is real – it’s what we saw.

Badlands 3 (768, EM5, 10-24-13)

Yep.  Rock (or sediment) that’s as close to purple as I’ve ever seen in a natural landscape.  And no, I’m not at all sure how it got that way.  I do know that the terrain here changes every time it rains; it’s very soft and the surface erodes easily.


8 Responses to “The Badlands”

  1. Cedric Canard

    Impressive not just for its uniqueness, colours and textures but also for its harshness. It certainly looks inhospitable. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see any of the badlands when I travelled through the States.

    • Paul Maxim

      Well, I think maybe you did see some badlands while you were here. If you saw places like Bryce or Capitol Reef or even Arches, you saw stuff that – in my opinion – is very much like what you see here. Personally, I would definitely call Bryce “badlands”. Although I’m sure some geologist would gladly point out to me why it’s not.

      Hmmm. Now there’s a good reason to do a little research. If there is a difference, what is it?

      • Cedric Canard

        I did visit Bryce and thought it beautiful but I just don’t recall going through anything that was specifically called “badlands” though as you point out, I may have gone through areas that could geologically be called exactly that.

        • Paul Maxim

          Sorry – I wasn’t very clear, I guess. You’re right, there is nothing in or around Bryce (that I know of) that’s called “badlands”. No signs designating an area as such and nothing on a map that says “badlands”. But my (uneducated) opinion is that much of what you see there isn’t very different from other geological features in the southwest that are labelled “badlands”. If that’s really the case, then I was wondering out loud what the difference is. Why is part of the area around Capitol Reef called “badlands” while places near Bryce (that look similar) are not? Probably a dumb question, but I haven’t a clue what the answer is.

  2. Earl Moore

    Paul, I’ve visited the Badlands in SD back in 1980 and found it to be a very impressive, beautiful and inhospitable area. It’s one of those places where you feel small and insignificant when you stand before it. Your photos and the color levels do justice to my memories. Nice!

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Earl. Wow – 1980. Heck, I don’t think I even knew where SD was back then! And I was, what, 35 years old? Practically just a kid……..

      I wish I could have spent more time exploring the place. Like so many spots out there, it’s completely different from what I’m used to. And colorful.

  3. Cedric Canard

    I’ve done a little research and it seems to me like badlands are a specific geological phenomena which require specific conditions to be called badlands. Most are in the States but they exist all around the world. And despite a couple of sites calling Bryce “Bryce Canyon Badlands National Park”, most sites do not classify Bryce as badlands (too much vegetation for one thing). There’s something called regolith, the absence of which is a condition for badlands and a number of other features which seem rather vague to me. But when I look at images of badlands then I think you are most likely correct to say that I would have most probably driven through badlands at some point because some of those formations in those pictures looked familiar.

    • Paul Maxim

      I probably did my internet research in the same places you did. You’re right – the geologic definition seems a little vague. They’re right about the general absence of regolith, though. There really isn’t any loose covering of dirt and other stuff on the rock structures. Still, you could make that same claim about a lot of places that aren’t called badlands. I think we need an “expert”……….


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