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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Ecoregions of
North Dakota
South Dakota

43. Northwestern Great Plains

43h. White River Badlands Level IV Ecoregion


North Dakota Ecoregions

South Dakota Ecoregions

43a. Missouri Plateau

43b. Little Missouri Badlands

43c. River Breaks

43d. Forested Buttes

43e. Sagebrush Steppe

43f. Subhumid Pierre Shale Plains

43g. Semiarid Pierre Shale Plains

43h. White River Badlands

43i. Keya Paha Tablelands

43j. Moreau Prairie

43k. Dense Clay Prairie

  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 for irrigation.

GIF - White River Badlands
Soft clays of the White River Badlands form the dramatic erosional landscape of the "Wall."

The spectacular White River Badlands formed through the erosion of the soft Brule and Chadron clays and siltstones. The turbulent topography ranges from the sheer, highly dissected "Wall" to pastel-hued toeslopes laden with Oligocene fossils. This seemingly barren landscape is broken by grass-covered, perched "sod tables" that may be grazed or tilled.


Area (square miles): 1913

Elevation/Local Relief (feet): 2450-3250/150-450

Unglaciated. Highly dissected landscape of eroded walls and escarpmetns, isolated tablelands and buttes. Dense, dendritic drainage pattern; ephermeral streams highly erosive.


Surficial Material and Bedrock
Oligocene Brule and Chadron claystone formations (Whie River Group) over Cretaceous Pierre Shale.


Order (Great Groups)
Aridisols (Camborthids), Entisols (Torriorthents), Inceptisols (Ustochrepts)

Common Soil Series
Conata, Epping, Imlay, Orella, Bufton

Temperature/Moisture Regimes
Mesic/Ustic, Aridic


Precipitation - Mean annual (inches)

Frost Free - Mean annual (days)

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

Potential Natural Vegetation

Sand sagebrush, silver sagebrush, western wheatgrass, grama grass and buffalograss.

Land Use and Land Cover

Cattle grazing. Range and hayland.

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