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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Ecoregions of
North Dakota
South Dakota

17. Middle Rockies

17b. Black Hills Plateau Level IV Ecoregion


North Dakota Ecoregions

South Dakota Ecoregions

17a. Black Hills Foothills

17b. Black Hills Plateau

17c. Black Hills Core Highlands

  The Middle Rockies ecoregion is characterized by individual mountain ranges of mixed geology interspersed with high elevation, grassy parkland. The Black Hills are an outlier of the Middle Rockies and share with them a montane climate, hydrography, and land use pattern. Ranching and woodland grazing, logging, recreation, and mining are common.

JPG - Ponderosa pines in the Black Hills
Granitic intrusions break through the ponderosa pine forest of the Black Hills Plateau.

The Black Hills Plateau ecoregion is a relatively flat, elevated expanse covering the mid-elevation slopes and grasslands of the Black Hills. It includes areas of sharply tilted metamorphic rock and lower elevation granite outcrops. Competing uses, such as logging, farming and ranching, and tourist development, stress this ecosystem.


Area (square miles): 1507

Elevation/Local Relief (feet): 3500-5500/600-1050

Unglaciated. Plateau topography with broad ridges, entrenched canyons. In metamorphic areas, highly dissected, tilted rock faces, steep canyon slopes. In limestone areas caves, springs, consistent yearly streamflow.


Surficial Material and Bedrock
Paleozoic limestone of the Englewood Formation, Devonian Period, and Madison of the Mississippian Period. Sandstone and dolomite shales of Deadwood, Whitewood and Minnelusa formations. Lower elevation metamorphic and granite outcrops.


Order (Great Groups)
Alfiosols (Eutroboralfs), Mollisols (Haploboralls), Inceptisols (Eutrochrepts)

Common Soil Series
Citadel, Vanocker, Grizzly Buska, Pactola, Mocmont, Paunsaugunt, rock outcrop

Temperature/Moisture Regimes
Frigid/Ustic, Udic


Precipitation - Mean annual (inches)

Frost Free - Mean annual (days)

Mean Temp. - Jan. min/max; July min/max, (°F)

Potential Natural Vegetation

Ponderosa pine forest dominant. Aspen, paper birch, some spruce in drainages and wet meadows. Understory little bluestem, buffaloberry, chokecherry, snowberry.

Land Use and Land Cover

Grazing and farming, recreation, hunting, some timber production, woodland grazing. Ponderosa pine forest with farms and ranches in valley bottoms and prairie openings.

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