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Ecoregions of
North Dakota
South Dakota

17. Middle Rockies

17c. Black Hills Core Highlands 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.

GIF - Elk
Elk occur in the more remote regions of the Black Hills. Photo by South Dakota Tourism

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): 688

Elevation/Local Relief (feet): 5500-7242/1000-1850

Mountainous topography with highly eroded outcrops and broad valleys. Limestone plateau above 5500 feet. Granitic intrusions form the major peaks including Bear Mountain, Terry Peak, Custer Peak, and Harney Peak, the highest point in South Dakota at 7242 feet.


Surficial Material and Bedrock
Precambrian igneous and sedimentary rock and metamorphic schist, slates, quartize; granite and pegmatite. Higher elevation limestones.


Order (Great Groups)
Alfiosols (Cryoboralfs, Eutroboralfs)

Common Soil Series
Stovho, Trebor, Virkula, Mocmont, rock outcrop, Pactola, Buska

Temperature/Moisture Regimes
Frigid/Cryic, Udic


Precipitation - Mean annual (inches)

Frost Free - Mean annual (days)

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

Potential Natural Vegetation

Mostly ponderosa pine with white spruce, paper birch and aspen on north facing slopes, moist areas, and higher elevations. Understory: sedges, bearded wheatgrass, juniper, snowberry, Oregon grape, bearberry.

Land Use and Land Cover

Mining in the metamorphic areas. Recreation, hunting, timber production, woodland grazing. Pine and spruce forests, high meadows and granitic rock outcrops.

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