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Badlands, Wyoming

Erosional Landform Pictures

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A badlands is where deep erosion of poorly consolidated rocks creates a landscape of steep slopes, sparse vegetation and intricate stream networks. (more below)
Intricate erosion showplaces
Photo (c) 1979 Andrew Alden, licensed to About.com (fair use policy)
Badlands are named for a part of South Dakota that the first explorers, who spoke French, called "mauvaises terres." This example is in Wyoming. The white and red layers represent volcanic ash beds and ancient soils or weathered alluvium, respectively.

Although such areas are truly obstacles to travel and settlement, badlands can be bonanzas for paleontologists and fossil hunters because of the natural exposures of fresh rock. They are also beautiful in a way no other landscape can be.

The high plains of North America have spectacular examples of badlands, including Badlands National Park in South Dakota. But they occur in many other places, such as the Santa Ynez Range in southern California.

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