"The Little Known Theodore Roosevelt National Park" Top 5 Page for this destination Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park by KimberlyAnn

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is neither the most interesting, or the most beautiful national park we have visited, yet it has its own stark beauty. Much of the park, except for the areas along the Little Missouri River, is made up of badlands. These badlands consist of rugged bluffs, valleys, eroded formations with colorful hues, and flat lands made up of short wild grasses and sagebrush. Herds of wild bison, and a number of prairie dog towns add interest to your visit. Besides these commonly seen animals, deer, elk, coyotes, rabbits, bobcats, badgers, beavers, wild horses, and a number of birds live in the park. The park is named for President Theodore Roosevelt who came to the area in 1883 to hunt bison (sometimes called buffalo.) Roosevelt became interested in the ranching in the area, and became a partner in the Maltese Cross Ranch, located seven miles south of the town of Medora. A year later he started the Elkhorn Ranch, 35 miles from Medora. Roosevelt once stated “I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.” He felt the area had influenced his attitudes concerning nature and conservation. As a conservationist, Roosevelt was a major influence in environmental efforts in the United States during his presidency and lifetime. Roosevelt National Park is divided up into two main unites, the North Unit, and South Unit, plus the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. The south unit is located near Medora off highway I-94. The North Unit is along U.S. highway 85, 50 miles north of the small town of Belfield and I-94, and 15 miles south of Watford City. The Elkhorn Ranch Unit is located 35 miles north of Medora, between the main South and North Units. The Elkhorn Ranch area is undeveloped, and seldom visited. To reach this area you have to drive gravel roads, then ford the Little Missouri River. We have never visited this section, but rangers told us that there is almost nothing left of the ranch. If you are interested in the Elkhorn Ranch Unit, check with rangers, before venturing out. Both the South and North units have scenic drives, miles of hiking trails, and campgrounds. Without city lights, this is also a great place for stargazers.

The Little Missouri River, as well as natural erosion, have helped to carve the badlands into interesting and colorful formations. Other areas have exposed coal seams, some which have caught fire and baked the surrounding sand and clay. You will see black, grays, reds, yellows, and browns decorating the various hills and eroded formations. These colors are best seen in the early morning or late afternoon. High mid-day sunlight tends to wash the colors out.

I love the Prairie dog towns, which may house hundreds of Black-tailed Prairie dogs. In both the North and South Units you will have the opportunity of viewing these entertaining little critters.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:A great place for interesting hikes, and views of buffalo and prairie dogs.
  • Cons:Winters are cold and windy, with only brief warming spells.
  • In a nutshell:Barren, yet beautiful in its own way, a good place for people who want to experience one of the lesser visited parks.
  • Intro Updated Aug 19, 2011
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Comments (3)

  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo
    Mar 27, 2010 at 10:53 PM

    This is a 'tour de force' page on Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park! Your photos are excellent and the tips have tons of useful information. Thank you for the comprehensive tour - my wife and I only had a short time in the North Unit.

  • 807Wheaton's Profile Photo
    May 13, 2009 at 7:27 AM

    Great information about this Park - we will be visiting the Dakotas in August, with two nights in Dickinson. P.S. I like your new picture! Marcia

  • SLLiew's Profile Photo
    May 10, 2009 at 11:34 AM

    Wow...another amazing National Park page. Thanks for sharing the beauty of this wilderness. Cheers, SL :)

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