Badlands National Park landscape
Badlands National Park located in southwest South Dakota has almost a quarter million acres consisting of highly eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires, truly a bad area to cross. The history of the White River Badlands as a rich fossil area dates to Native American knowledge of the area. The Lakota found large fossil bones, seashells and turtles and correctly surmised that the area had once been under water, and that the fossils belonged to animals that no longer existed. Formal paleontological study began in the 1840s. The White River Badlands became popular fossil hunting grounds with many new fossil species over succeeding decades. During the late 1800s and continuing today, scientists from around the world have studied the fossils of the White River Badlands. The area contains the richest assemblage of Oligocene mammal fossils known. Comparisons of the White River Badlands fossils with those of similar age from around the world have been paramount in shaping our knowledge of Oligocene life, and particularly, mammal evolution.