The forbidding Big Badlands in Western South Dakota contain the richest fossil beds in the world. They are a bone hunter's paradise. Even today these rocks continue to yield new specimens brought to light by snowmelt and rain washing away soft rock deposited on a floodplain long ago. The quality and quantity of the fossils are superb: most of the species to be found there are known from hundreds of specimens and often complete skeletons.
The fossils in the White River Group (and similar deposits in the American west) preserve the entire late Eocene through the middle Oligocene, roughly 35-30 million years ago and more than 30 million years after non-avian dinosaurs became extinct. The fossils provide a detailed record of a period of abrupt global cooling and what happened to creatures who lived through it. The White River Badlands provides a comprehensive reference to the sediments and fossils of the Big Badlands and will compliment, enhance, and in some ways replace the classic 1920 volume by Cleophas C. O'Harra. Because The White River Badlands focuses on a national treasure, it touches on National Park Service management policies that help protect such significant fossils and includes a guide to the views from the overlooks of the park.
1. History of Paleontologic and Geologic Studies in the Big Badlands
2. Sedimentary Geology of the Big Badlands
3. Paleoenvironmental and Paleoclimatic Interpretations from Paleosols
4. Post-depositional Processes and Erosion of the White River Badlands
5. Bones that Turned to Stone: Systematics
6. Death on the Landscape: Taphonomy and Paleoenvironments
7. The Big Badlands in Space and Time
8. National Park Service Policy and the Management of Fossil Resources
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Rachel C. Benton is Park Paleontologist at Badlands National Park. Dennis O. Terry, Jr.., is Associate Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at Temple University in Philadelphia. Emmett Evanoff is Associate Professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado. H. Gregory McDonald is Senior Curator of Natural History in the National Park Service Museum Management Program.