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2 1.1. Regional map of southwest South Dakota and adjacent states showing the features related to the history of the geologic and paleontologic studies of the Big Badlands. The dashed line indicates the route of the Fort Pierre–Fort Laramie road, plotted after the map of Warren (1856). The inset map of the details of the Badlands area includes the boundaries of the three units of present Badlands National Park (dash–dot lines). The base map is from the U.S. National Atlas Web site ( Black Hills White River White River Be ar Cr ee k Bad River River Palmer Creek Cedar Pass Big Pig Dig Pinnacles Sheep Mountain Table Scenic Hermosa Rapid City Interior Red Cloud Agency 1874 Fort Pierre Badlands To Fort Laramie To Fort Pierre To Fort Laramie Detailed Map of the Badlands 43° 44° N 44° 104°W 103° 102° 102° 101° N South Dakota Nebraska Wyoming C h e y e n n e C h e y e n n e R i v e r 3 1 History of Paleontologic and Geologic Studies in the Big Badlands The first fossils from the Badlands of South Dakota were collected by employees of the American Fur Company and sent to scientists in the eastern United States. The fur company had opened up a wagon road between Fort Pierre on the Missouri River and Fort John, later known as Fort Laramie, on the Platte River (Fig. 1.1). This was a much shorter route from the Missouri than the long Platte River road, and it crossed the Big Badlands in the headwaters of Bear Creek near the modern town of Scenic, then went south on the east side of Sheep Mountain Table to the White River. Various fur company employees may have collected fossils from this area in the 1840s, but it was the chief agent of the upper Missouri posts for the fur company, Alexander Culbertson , who sent fossils to St. Louis and to his father and uncle in Pennsylvania. Dr. Hiram Prout of St. Louis had been sent a lower jaw fragment of a huge mammal that he identified as Palaeotherium because of its similarity to figured specimens of this European fossil mammal. He sent a cast of this specimen and a letter to Yale University in 1846. The letter and a crude drawing of the specimen’s teeth were published in 1846. Prout described the specimen in greater detail the following year, 1847, and this became the first White River fossil mammal to be described in the scientific literature (Fig. 1.2A). The other fossils sent to Culbertson’s father and uncle eventually made their way to Dr. Joseph Leidy of the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences (Fig. 1.3). One of Leidy’s many academic talents was vertebrate paleontology, and beginning with the description of the first fossil camel skull found in the United States, which he named Poebrotherium in 1847 (Fig. 1.2B), he started a long career as the preeminent vertebrate paleontologist of the United States. These first publications on the fossils from the Badlands piqued the interest of geologists and naturalists, some of whom eventually visited the Badlands. Among these was Dr. David Dale Owen, who was making a geologic survey of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. In 1849 Owen sent one of his assistant geologists, Dr. John Evans, to the Badlands to collect fossils and to determine the age relations of the fossilbearing rocks. Evans and his field party spent about a week in the Badlands, and all the fossils were sent to Leidy. The results of Evan’s expedition plus descriptions of the vertebrate fossils by Leidy were published in 1852. This report included the first map of the region (Fig. 1.4) and the first diagram of the Badlands (Fig. 1.5). Evans described the Badlands as follows: To the surrounding country . . . the Mauvaises Terres present the most striking contrast. From the uniform, monotonous, open prairie, the traveler suddenly descends, one or two hundred feet, into a valley that looks as if it had sunk away from the surrounding world; leaving standing, all over it, thousands of abrupt, irregular, prismatic, and columnar masses, frequently capped with irregular pyramids, and stretching up to a height of from one to two hundred feet, or more. So thickly are these natural towers studded over the surface of this extraordinary region, that the traveler threads his way through deep, confined, labyrinthine passages, not unlike the narrow, irregular...


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