National Parks Badlands National Park
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Badlands National Park

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For centuries humans have viewed South Dakota's celebrated Badlands with a mix of dread and fascination. The Lakota knew the place as "mako sica". Early French trappers called the area "les mauvaises terres a traverser". Both mean "bad lands." Conservation writer Freeman Tilden described the region as "peaks and valleys of delicately banded colors - colors that shift in the sunshine... and a thousand tints that color charts do not show. In the early morning and evening, when shadows are cast upon the infinite peaks or on a bright moonlit night when the whole region seems a part of another world, the Badlands will be an experience not easily forgotten." Paleontologist Thaddeus Culbertson has another reaction, "Fancy yourself on the hottest day in summer in the hottest spot of such a place without water - without an animal and scarce an insect astir - without a single flower to speak pleasant things to you and you will have some idea of the utter loneliness of the Bad Lands."

The park consists of nearly 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires blended with the largest, protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. Sixty-four thousand acres are designated official wilderness, and is the site of the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret, the most endangered land mammal in North America. The Stronghold Unit is co-managed with the Oglala Sioux Tribe and includes the sites of 1890's Ghost Dances.

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