The steep Saddle Pass trail drops down the face of the Badlands Wall to connect the upland prairie to the heavily eroded lowland basin of the White River. Thought to have been used by native Americans, the trail later served as a route for homesteaders in the early 20th century who would leave their wagons at the top, guide their horses down the face of the wall, gather supplies at the town near the base and then carry their supplies back up to their waiting wagons.
Erosion is the defining feature of the landscape here. The Badlands Wall represents the leading edge of erosion into a formation of sand, clay, silt and ash deposited over 24 million years ago during a dry period of the earth's climate. The ash and clay in the soil and the rapid erosion since the end of the dry period prevent most plants from taking hold - hence the name, badlands. Only a thin layer of grass supporting soil keep the upland prairies from rapidly slipping away. In the lowlands, soil blankets preserve a few old mounds of sediment deposited by streams eroding the badlands in ages past.