As you drive or hike through western North Dakota, the gently rolling hills open up dramatically into the varied and colorful layers of the badlands. Curiosity might lead you to take a closer look at the rocks making up the layers. This closer look takes you back millions of years to an ancient world of swamps and forests.
The story of the badlands begins over 65 million years ago during the Paleocene Epoch. The dinosaurs had just become extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period. The western half of North America was buckling and folding to create the Rocky Mountains. Large amounts of sediments were forming as water, wind, and freezing worked to break down the mountains. These sediments, mostly sand, silt, and mud, were carried off the eastern slopes by ancient rivers and deposited here in layers. Volcanoes in South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and across the west were also erupting during this time, spitting out huge amounts of ash. Some of this volcanic ash was blown or carried by rivers into North Dakota and accumulated in standing water. Over time, the sediments turned into the sandstone, siltstone, and mudstone layers now exposed in the park, while the ash layers became bentonite clay.
During the epochs that followed, the land continued to change. Deposition from the mountains in the west continued throughout much of the Eocene, Oligocene, and Miocene epochs. Then as the Pliocene Epoch began, erosion dominated and the layers began to be stripped away. Rivers meandered through broad, shallow valleys across the western Dakotas and eastern Montana plains. Although the rivers changed their courses many times, when the Pliocene Epoch came to a close about two million years ago, one of these rivers existed in almost the same position as the modern Little Missouri River. This river flowed northward to merge first with the ancestral Yellowstone River near Williston, North Dakota, and then merged with the Missouri River, continuing northeastward through Saskatchewan and Manitoba to Hudson Bay.
In the Pleistocene Epoch, the time period of numerous Ice Ages, which began about two million years ago, great continental ice sheets advanced southward from present-day Canada and reached as far as the upper North Unit boundary in the park. The ice blocked the flow of the north-flowing rivers, forcing them to create new courses eastward and southward, causing them to empty into the Mississippi River instead of Hudson Bay. By the time the ice retreated, the northern portions of both the Little Missouri and Missouri rivers were entrenched in their new channels. The Little Missouriís new course to the north followed a steeper course, causing the whole river to flow faster and begin cutting deeply into the land. Slicing easily through the soft sedimentary rocks, the river and its tributaries carved the fantastically broken topography that is todayís badlands.
Go to the top of each page of our website for the menu bar of categories. You will see a drop down menu appear for each category. Click a link to browse or click our Site Map and Categories to find your link.
An award-winning Antique Mall - from our 1st year in 1998 to the present Shop Where the Dealers Shop!
Me with your feedback on how I can Improve this website.