Badlands History

Badlands History
At the Badlands National Park in South Dakota, people can go hiking, camping, biking and climbing. Although it is mostly used for tourism purposes today, the Badlands once served as a hunting grounds and settlement.

Early Animal Life

The U.S. National Park Service states that the area that now makes up Badlands National Park supported animal life during the Late Eocene and Oligocene Epochs, 37 to 28 million years ago.

Early Hunters

The U.S. National Parks and Monuments Travel Guide states that the first people to use the Badlands area were ancient mammoth hunters, who entered the area around 11,000 years ago. According to, groups of Arikara Indians from areas around the Missouri River used the Badlands as a buffalo hunting grounds during the eighteenth century.

American Indian Groups

Groups of Sioux Indians, including the Lakota tribe, started moving to an area near the Badlands that is now Philip, South Dakota, around 1775. Members of the tribe hunted bison in the Badlands.

Fossil Hunters

From the 1840s to the 1860s, scientists such as Joseph Leidy and Dr. Hiram Prout explored the Badlands for fossils. A number of fossils were discovered in the area known as the White River Badlands.


Starting in the late nineteenth century, French fur trappers, soldiers, cattle farmers and homesteaders began arriving in the Badlands. The Lakota Indians struggled against settlers until 1890, the year the Wounded Knee Massacre occurred. After the battle, cattle and wheat farmers inhabited the Badlands.

Other Uses

During World War II, the U.S. Air Force used part of the Badlands as a gunnery range. In 1978, the Badlands became a national park.

Article Written By Laura Latzko

Laura Latzko is a freelance writer based in Phoenix, Ariz. She has reported for the "Columbia Missourian," "Columbia Daily Tribune," "Downtown Express" and "Washington Times." She holds a Master of Arts in journalism from the University of Missouri.

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