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T H E   B A D L A N D S   -   D A Y   # 3

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Attending a Discovery Tour as well as hiking within the Badlands was on today's agenda. My photography was limited to the 25 shots left on my second and last disposable 35mm camera (a temporary replacement for my recently broken digital). So sorry to say my hiking jaunts will seem rather abbreviated today. Oh, well.

I arrived on time for the Discovery Tour. And to my surprise, Ranger Lovelace would be conducting it. He was the same ranger who presented the Minuteman Missile slideshow presentation the evening before at the campground's amphitheater. I really enjoyed his presentation and was looking forward to taking this tour with him at the helm.

Ranger Lovelace commenced the tour after about 7 people showed up. He went on to tell us how the Badlands were formed which included a hands-on lesson which included feeling the formation and being quizzed on how we thought the formations had formed. Audience participation, that was one of the ranger's teaching techniques.

I learned that the formations are layers upon layers of brule clay and wormhole sandstone (first photo). Rain falls down upon the peaked formations and erodes the clay, forming little vertical rivulets that wash clay sediment down the side-walls into small arteries of clay wash that flow downhill on the surface (second photo). As the arteries combine, they erode large troughs (third photo). As these large troughs combine their watery sediment, they erode gigantic troughs (fourth photo).

Here is another geological feature we encountered on the tour. These interesting ribbon-like structures frequently form a single, continuous thread that can be traced for miles and miles along the eroded wallface. Scientists theorize they were created when the Rocky Mountains were forming. Plate-tectonics caused the Badlands to literally crack open in places. Volcanic ash, originating from the cataclysmic eruptions to the west, slowly filled the cracks as it fell like snow from the stormy sky above. Over time the ash deposits solidified and caused the phenomena we see here today.

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