Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
|43b. Little Missouri Badlands||Level IV Ecoregion|
|Home||The Northwestern Great Plains
ecoregion encompasses the Missouri Plateau section of the Great
Plains. It is a semiarid rolling plain of shale, siltstone, and sandstone
punctuated by occasional buttes and badlands. Native grasslands persist
in areas of steep or broken topography, but they have been largely replaced
by spring wheat and alfalfa over most of the ecoregion. Agriculture
is limited by erratic precipitation patterns and limited opportunities
Theodore Roosevelt once said, "The Badlands look like Poe wrote." The gothic erosional landscape of the Little Missouri Badlands formed when the Little Missouri River was diverted along a steeper course by Pleistocene glaciers. The soft silts and clays of the Sentinel Butte and Bullion Creek Formations continually melt off the sparsely vegetated conical hillslopes. The collapse of caverns created by burning coal seams also hastens erosion. Rocky Mountain juniper grows on the hillslopes; cottonwood and green ash appear in the riparian areas. Ephemeral, flashy stream flow creates steep, downcut channels in the soft sediments along the tributaries to the Little Missouri River. Grazing and recreation are the dominant land uses. This region also includes the Killdeer Mountains.
Area (square miles): 2552
Surficial Material and Bedrock
Order (Great Groups)
Precipitation - Mean annual (inches)
Potential Natural Vegetation
Shortgrass prairie: western wheatgrass, blue grama, little bluestem, prairie sandreed. Rocky Mountain juniper in draws and on north slopes. Scattered cottonwood in riparian areas.
Land Use and Land Cover
Cattle ranching, wildlife habitat and recreation. Bare hills with scattered junipers; grasslands in bottonlands.