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Bad lands, the.

“Mauvaises Terres,” of the old French fur-traders' dialect, are an extensive tract in the Dakotas, Wyoming, and northwestern Nebraska, between the North Fork of the Platte and the South Fork of the Cheyene rivers, west, south, and southeast of the Black Hills. It lies mostly between long. 103° and 105° N., with an area as yet not perfectly defined, but estimated to cover about 60,000 square miles. There are similar lands in the Green River region, of which Fort Bridger is the centre, and in southeastern Oregon. They belong to the Miocence period, geologically speaking. The surface materials are for the most part white and yellowish indurated clays, sands, marls, and occasional thin beds of lime and sandstone. The locality is fitly described as one of the most wonderful regions of the globe. It is held by geologists that during the geological period named a vast fresh-water lake system covered this portion of our continent, when the comparatively soft materials which compose the present surface were deposited. As these lakes drained off, after the subsidence of the plains farther east, resulting in the formation of the Missouri Valley, the original lake beds were worn into canyons that wind in every conceivable direction. Here and there abrupt, almost perpendicular portions of the ancient beds remain in all imaginable forms, some resembling the ruins of abandoned cities. “Towers, spires, cathedrals, obelisks, pyramids, and monuments” of various shapes appear on every side, as far as the eye can range. Dr. Hayden, the earliest explorer of this region, said: “Not unfrequently the rising or setting sun will light up these grand old ruins with a wild, strange beauty, reminding one of a city illuminated in the night, as seen from some high point. The harder layers project from the sides of the canyons with such regularity that they appear like seats of some vest weird amphitheatre.” Through all this country rainfall is very light: the earth absorbs the most of what rain does fall, and water and grass are very scanty. The surfacerock is so soft that it disintegrates rapidly, covering the lower grounds in many places to a depth of several feet with a soft, powdery soil into which animals sink as in snow, while when wet it becomes a stiff mud of impassable depth. These lands are plainly unsuited for agriculture, [246] and with rare exceptions, here and there, are of little value for grazing purposes. They are, however, one of the most astonishing treasuries of fossil remains to be found anywhere. The soft clayey deposits are in some places literally filled with the bones of extinct species of the horse, rhinoceros, elephant, hog. camel, a deer that strongly resembled a hog, sabre-toothed lions, and other marvellous creatures, which have rendered this section of the earth a study of the highest interest to geologists of all lands.

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Towers (1)
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