|When this intriguing, rugged, yet delicate land was set aside as a state park in 1953 it was called Makoshika (Ma-ko'-shi-ka). |
The name Makoshika is a variant spelling of a Lakota phrase meaning land of bad spirits, "badlands".
These badlands expose older rock layers than those in the badlands of the Dakotas. Here, the Yellowstone River and its tributaries cut into a fascinating transition in time: the passing from the Age of Reptiles, so dramatically represented by the dinosaurs, to the Age of Mammals.
Most of these strata are the brownish-gray sediments of the Hell Creek Formation dating back 65 million years ago when the Rocky Mountains were rising in the west. At that time, this area was rivers and floodplains similar to the present southeastern United States with sub-tropical climate and vegetation. It was the Cretaceous Period, the "Age of Reptiles." Rivers draining the western mountains deposited layer upon layer of sediments which over millions of years compacted to form the sandstones, mudstones, clays, and shales that form the badlands landscape.