15 Badlands That You Have to See to Believe

The term “Badlands” conjures up images of barren desert landscapes and drought stricken trees but in reality that is not the case. Badlands are a unique geologic feature characterized by the erosion of clay rich rocks. Local weathering creates complicated drainage patterns that make the difficult to traverse on foot but they are often spectacular from a distance. Typical colors are alternating patterns of blue, black, orange and even red. Canyons, ravines, gullies, buttes, mesas, hoodoos and other such geological forms are common in badlands. Most of the best know badlands are found in North America such as those found in Badlands National Park in South Dakota at the base of the Henry Mountains in Utah. Here is a more in depth look at 15 Badlands that made our list.

1. Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park Badlands National Park is a national park in southwestern South Dakota that protects 242,756 acres (379.306 sq mi; 98,240 ha) of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires blended with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. The park is managed by the National Park Service. Badlands National Park has two campgrounds for overnight visits. The Ben Reifel Visitor Center within the park offers a bookstore, special programs, and exhibits.

2. Makoshika State Park

Makoshika State Park Makoshika State Park is the largest of Montana’s state parks at more than 11,000 acres (45 km²). It is located east of Glendive. The park contains spectacular badlands which conceal dinosaur fossils. The park contains rock from the Hell Creek Formation and dinosaurs such as Triceratops are found there. The park also features an archery site, scenic drives, nature trails, and a 16-site campground.

3. Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a United States National Park comprising three geographically separated areas of badlands in western North Dakota. The park was named for U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. The park covers 70,446 acres of land in three sections: the North Unit, the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. The badlands are very important in Theodore Roosevelt’s life, and the park memorializes his contributions to the conservation of America’s natural resources.

4. Toadstool Geologic Park

Toadstool Geologic Park Toadstool Geologic Park is located in the Oglala National Grassland in far northwestern Nebraska. It is operated by the United States Forest Service. It contains a badlands landscape and a reconstructed sod house. The park is named after its unusual rock formations, many of which resemble toadstools. Toadstool Geologic Park is said to be the “badlands of Nebraska” or the “desert of the Pine Ridge.” The park is open 24 hours a day.

5. Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur National MonumentDinosaur National Monument is a U.S. National Monument located on the southeast flank of the Uinta Mountains on the border between Colorado and Utah at the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers. Although most of the monument area is in Moffat County, Colorado, the Dinosaur Quarry is located in Utah just to the north of the town of Jensen, Utah. This park contains over 800 paleontological sites and has fossils of dinosaurs including Allosaurus, Deinonychus, Abydosaurus and various long-neck, long-tail sauropods.

6. Hell’s Half Acre

Hell's Half Acre Hell’s Half Acre is a large scarp located about 40 miles (64 km) west of Casper, Wyoming on US 20/26. Encompassing 320 acres (1.3 sq km), this geologic oddity is composed of deep ravines, caves, rock formations and hard-packed eroded earth. Hell’s Half Acre was used as the location for the fictional planet of Klendathu in the movie Starship Troopers. The location was known as “The Devil’s Kitchen”, “The Pits of Hades”, and “The Baby Grand Canyon” until a cowhand appeared and thought he was at Hell’s Half Acre, an area southwest of Casper full of alkali and bogs.

7. El Malpais National Monument

El Malpais National Monument El Malpais National Monument is a National Monument located in western New Mexico, in the Southwestern United States. The name El Malpais is from the Spanish term Malpaís, meaning badlands, due to the extremely barren and dramatic volcanic field that covers much of the park’s area. It is on the Trails of the Ancients Byway, one of the designated New Mexico Scenic Byways.

8. Red Deer River

Red Deer River The Red Deer River is a river in Alberta, Canada and a small part of Saskatchewan. It is a major tributary of the South Saskatchewan River and is part of the larger Saskatchewan-Nelson system that empties into Hudson Bay. Red Deer River has a total length of 724 kilometres (450 mi) and a drainage area of 45,100 square kilometres (17,400 sq mi). Its mean discharge is 70 cubic metres per second (2,500 cu ft/s).

9. Dinosaur Provincial Park

Dinosaur Provincial ParkDinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located about two-and-a-half hours drive southeast of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, or 48 kilometres (30 mi), about a half-hour drive northeast of Brooks. The park is situated in the valley of the Red Deer River, which is noted for its striking badland topography. The park is well known for being one of the richest dinosaur fossil locales in the world.

10. Putangirua Pinnacles

Putangirua PinnaclesThe Putangirua Pinnacles are a geological formation and one of New Zealand’s best examples of badlands erosion. They consist of a large number of earth pillars or hoodoos located at the head of a valley in the Aorangi Ranges, on the North Island of New Zealand, in the Wairarapa region. Some 7 to 9 million years ago when sea levels were much higher, the Aorangi ranges were an island and as this landmass was eroded over time, large alluvial fans formed on its southern shores.

11. Bardenas Reales

Bardenas RealesThe Bardenas Reales is a semi-desert natural region, or badlands, of some 42,000 hectares (100,000 acres) in southeast Navarre (Spain). The soils are made up of clay, chalk and sandstone and have been eroded by water and wind creating surprising shapes, canyons, plateaus, tabular structures and isolated hills, called cabezos. Bardenas lacks urban areas, vegetation is scarce and the many streams that cross the territory have a markedly seasonal flow, staying dry most of the year.

12. Tabernas Desert

Tabernas DesertThe Tabernas Desert is one of Spain’s semi-deserts, located within Spain’s southeastern province of Almería. Almeria is the driest region of Europe, with the continent’s only true desert climate where annual rainfall reaches levels as low as 156 mm in coastal areas. The Tabernas desert is located in the interior, about 30 kilometers (19 mi) north of the provincial capital, Almería, in the Tabernas municipality.

13. Ischigualasto Provincial Park

Ischigualasto Provincial ParkIschigualasto Provincial Park (Parque Provincial Ischigualasto), also called Valle de la Luna (“Valley of the Moon” or “Moon Valley”), due to its otherworldly appearance, is a provincial protected area in the north-east of San Juan Province, north-western Argentina, limiting to the north with the Talampaya National Park, in La Rioja Province. In 2000 UNESCO included Ischigualasto and Talampaya National Park among its World Heritage Sites.

14. Las Médulas

Las MédulasLas Médulas is a historic mining site near the town of Ponferrada in the region of El Bierzo (province of León, Castile and León, Spain), which used to be the most important gold mine in the Roman Empire. Las Médulas Cultural Landscape is listed by the UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites. Advanced aerial surveys conducted in 2014 using LIDAR have confirmed the wide extent of the Roman-era works.

15. Cheltenham Badlands

Cheltenham BadlandsCheltenham Badlands is a small example of badlands formation in Caledon, Ontario. The site is located on the south east side of Olde Base Line Road, between Creditview and Chinguacousy Roads, west of Highway 10 in Caledon, and features exposed and eroded Queenston Shale. The formation is located along the Niagara Escarpment. There are concerns by conservationists that increased visitors to the area will cause damage to the formation and suggest closure or restriction of access to the site. Trails leading from the site are now closed.

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