Geologists call eroded landscapes such as the Painted Desert "badlands." Summer thunderstorms and winter snowmelt carve the shale and sandstone into mazes of sharp ridges, steep hillsides, and deep V-shaped gullies. Practically waterless, badlands support few plants.
Badlands exist only in dry regions with sparse vegetation. Soft badland sediments, unprotected by plants or by overlying harder caprock, are easily stripped away by infrequent rains. The remaining many-colored hills—with colors derived from chemicals that formed their rock—almost appear to be melting.
Badlands are found throughout the world. Here in the United States, Badlands National Park in South Dakota, Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, Death Valley National Monument in California, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota also preserve examples of badlands.