Badlands National Park

We are relatively certain that every kid growing up in America has heard about “The Badlands” at one point or another.

Whether it was during a school lesson on it being the hideout during the Wild West, or some other lesson, the name Badlands National Park is familiar to most, even those who haven’t made the trip to South Daokta.

The Badlands is arguably the most significant national park in the United States roster of national monuments, because of Teddy Roosevelt. Before his presidency, Roosevelt journeyed to the Badlands in September of 1883 in an attempt to hunt the big game of North America before they all disappeared. Always a hunter and a conversationalist, Roosevelt lamented in his writings over the loss of the fauna and habitat of the region. The near extermination of bison, elk, bighorn sheep and other animals was a what Roosevelt felt as a monumental loss to the region, and spelled out societies perception of natural resources as inexhaustible.

On this trip to the Badlands, Roosevelt would write,

We have become great because of hotel lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation.

Upon his return from the Badlands, and the loss of his ranches due to overgrazing, Roosevelt continued to write memoirs and books that fueled his eventual catapult into the U.S. presidency, and the formation of the National Forest Service in 1905. With it came the designation of 230 million acres as National Parks and Forests, and the Antiquities act of 1906, which gave the president the power to declare by public proclamation historical landmarks and those areas of scientific interest to be national monuments of the United States.

Badlands National Park is a 380-square-mile monument located in southwestern South Dakota  and consists of sharply eroded buttes and pinnacles along with the largest, undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. It is co-managed by the NPS and the Oglala Lakota native tribe.


Editor’s Note: A version of this story previously appeared on treadmagazine.com in August 2018.

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