The Badlands in Chicago?

Just by quickly looking at this harshly eroded landscape, you might think you were at Badlands National Park in South Dakota. In reality, this image is actually from Thornton Quarry just south of Chicago, Illinois; hardly a place where you would expect to see badlands-like formations.

Badlands landscapes are predominantly erosional terrains. The rocks in these dry terrains are generally softer sedimentary rocks, which can more easily be eroded by wind and water. Features like canyons, ravines and gullies are therefore common in badlands.

At the Thornton Quarry, they unintentionally create pseudo-badlands formations by dumping large piles of excavated, fine-grained loose sediments. These large piles of sediment are subject to the same erosional forces of wind and water, but because the sediment isn’t lithified, rills and gulllies quickly form along its surface. The surficial processes create noticeable effects under much quicker time-scales than they do in actual badlands areas, but their results are remarkably similar!

(Full view shows you’re definitely not at a real scenic locale!)

Images by author

2 thoughts on “The Badlands in Chicago?”

  1. Hi, I found some interesting rock finds out in Kane co by the river. Could I email you some pics? Some are heavy, some are light like charcoal, some have almost a smooth thick grey shiny metal coating, some have diamond like stone spots and other parts have almost an iridescent shine like you see on an oil slick. This was all from one area partially buried under a tree. I’ve never seen anything like them. Some have perfect circular indents too, beebeegun size, like a meteorite.


    1. It’s very difficult to identify rocks just by photos, and unfortunately not something I could provide much help with. If there’s any mining nearby, unusual rocks are often slag.


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