If you haven’t had an opportunity to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park you are missing a jewel in the park system. First coming to the Dakota Badlands in 1883, Roosevelt joined two others to form the Maltese Cross Ranch and during his return the following year established the Elkhorn Ranch. Teddy was at first drawn to the big game hunting but came to realize the impact this had on destroying big game species. He also saw the impact of overgrazing on the grasslands and destruction of the habitat of birds and small animals. His ideas on conservation definitely came from his time in the Dakotas and as President he not only established the U.S. Forest Service but signed the 1906 Antiquities Act. When I visited TR National Park I remember writing home a postcard that simply said “We should all be grateful to TR”.
I loved the Badlands. I wonder if they look much different than when Roosevelt first came to the area. In some ways the landscape has a barren appearance, but we found that to be quite misleading. There are bison, wild horses, prairie dogs, a variety of grasses and wildflowers, and a myriad of birds. We entered via the South Unit at the Medora Visitor Center. It is my understanding that the wild horse herd roams this South Unit of the park.
A special treat for us was coming upon the largest bison we have ever seen. We called him Grandfather Buffalo. We stopped and took several pictures of him, always keeping the car between us and him! I know they look slow but a bison can give chase at a pretty good clip. I didn’t want to test that premise.
If you are going to the South Unit I would say to spend at least one full day. Be sure to visit the Medora Visitor Center at the park entrance. The rangers there can give you any information you might need regarding activities and road and trail conditions.
When making your travel plans, don’t forget to visit our National Parks. They are most certainly a treasure to America and only by supporting them can we be assured they will exist for generations to come.
South Unit. 130 miles west of Bismarck, ND and 24 miles east of Montana state line. The entrance is in Medora. From 1-94 take exits 24 or 27.
North Unit. Between Grassy Butte and Watford City. From I-94 take U.S. 85 north at Belfield, exit 42. Travel north about 50 miles to the park entrance.