BADLANDS, South Dakota – It might feel like an alien world to visit Badlands National Park in South Dakota, with an expansive landscape not found anywhere else on Earth.
Mako Sica translates to "bad lands," a name given by the Lakota people for the rocky terrain, lack of water and extreme temperatures across the complex 250,000-acre park.
Native American people and their culture have been deeply rooted within the Badlands for 12,000 years. The Lakota people have called the Badlands home for the last several hundred years.
At one point, the Badlands was covered by a shallow sea. When the water started receding 75 million years ago, the sediments of sand, clay and silt left behind formed the spires and steep canyons.
"The Badlands is a stack of sedimentary rocks that have piled on the – right about (in) the middle of the age of mammals halfway between you and T-Rex … now all these layers are being carved away by erosion," said Ed Walsh, with Badlands National Park.
The sediment contains fossils from a world that no longer exists. Visitors can see some of the fossils from previous finds in the park, including sea creatures, mammals, birds and reptiles.
Visitors have also stumbled upon some finds.
Jerry Woehr was visiting the park with his family and was prepared for the other-worldly experience.
"We were told that maybe it would look like another planet, and we were talking with the kids, ‘We’re like it almost was like going out onto Mars or something like that,'" Woehr said. "Though they were quick to point out there was a lot more grass than there would be at Mars, so that analogy didn't work."
The National Park is still undergoing a transformation from harsh weather – but very slowly. Erosion continues at the rate of about an inch per year.