An erosional landform that develops in arid to
semiarid terranes, characterized by a very high drainage density
(77 to 747 miles per square mile), steep slopes, and narrow
ridges separating individual stream segments. They may have
steep pinnacles, walls, and heavily gullied slopes leading into
valleys that branch and bend forming a complex, patternless
land surface. Badlands develop on poorly consolidated soils
such as clay, silt, and, in some examples, water-soluble minerals
including gypsum and anhydrite. The development of badlands
is aided by poor drainage, a lack of vegetation, or loss
of vegetation on the unconsolidated surface soils. The French
fur traders (who called it the mauvaises terres) first used the
term for an area in western South Dakota, part of which is
now Badlands National Park. The complex land with many
valleys and difficult access offered hideouts for bandits during
the United States expansion in the west.
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