In the early 1900s, Wilson Burns set up his sheep operation near the outlet of the basin the beginnings of which you see here. The nearby Hamm's Draw near the outlet provided a source of water for the homesteaders in the area. Managing to hold on for the early years of the 20th century, most homesteaders were driven out of the area by the drought associated with the Dustbowl era.
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.