Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Edward P. Hogan


The term "Geography" has been burdened with countless definitions throughout the development of the discipline. Quite simply, geography is the study of spatial variations on the surface of the earth. Determining how the surface of the earth is divided, and how these divisions should be studied, involves an important concept in Geography. A constant point of conversation for the evolving geographer is the difference between a region and an area. Jackson County is an extremely interesting part of our country. Throughout its history it has been the recipient of various negative descriptions. The Indians called the area "mako sica" meaning land bad. French fur traders were also unflattering in their tales referring to the area as "les mauvaises terres a' traverser" bad lands to travel across. These names were all in reference to the White River Badlands; the dominant landform in the county. Today, however, the Jackson County area is not referred to in negative fashion. It is recognized worldwide as a place of scenic beauty. Located in the southwest section of South Dakota the land of "make sica" roughly defines a square (42 miles x 49 miles). Its boundaries have. changed over the years with the most drastic change occurring in 1978. Prior to that time, the land area that is now Jackson County was comprised of two political units. North of the White River was Jackson County. South of the White was Washabaugh County which was occupied by the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This area was unique in that it was one of the only unorganized counties left in the United States. In 1978, as the result of an election, Jackson and Washabaugh counties were merged into one. Since that time, the Oglala Sioux Tribe which. resides on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, has filed suit to rescind that agreement. The outcome of the suit is pending at the time of this writing. The following study of Jackson County was under taken using an outline that included a description of the physical environment (geologic history, terrain, climate , soils, vegetation, animal life, water), human occupance, and the cultural environment (agriculture, mining, industry, recreation, power and utilities, transportation, cities and towns). It is done in the hope that it will be of some use to the residents of Jackson County, the south Dakota State University Department of Geography, and any other interested parties.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Badlands (S.D. and Neb) -- Description and travel
Jackson County (S.D.) -- Description and travel



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University