"I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota," Theodore Roosevelt once remarked. Roosevelt first came to the badlands in September 1883 on a hunting trip. While here he became interested in the cattle business and invested in the Maltese Cross Ranch. He returned the next year and established the Elkhorn Ranch.
Whenever he managed to spend time in the badlands, he became
more and more alarmed by the damage that was being done to the land and
its wildlife. He witnessed the virtual destruction of some big game species,
such as bison and bighorn sheep. Overgrazing destroyed the grasslands
and with them the
habitats for small mammals and songbirds. Conservation increasingly became one of Roosevelt's major concerns. During his Presidency, Roosevelt established the US Forest Service and signed the 1906 Antiquities Act under which he proclaimed 18 national mounuments. He also established 5 national parks, 51 wildlife refuges and 150 national forests.
Here in the North Dakota badlands, where many of his personal concerns first gave rise to his later environmental efforts, Roosevelt is remembered with a national park that bears his name and honors the memory of this great conservationist. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is in the colorful North Dakota badlands and is home to a variety of plants and animals, including bison, prairie dogs, and elk.
Basic Information on Theodore Roosevelt
Operating Hours, Seasons
The park is open all year. Portions of the South Unit Scenic Loop Drive and North Unit Scenic Road may be closed in winter due to snow and ice.
How to Get to Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Nearest Airport to Theodore Roosevelt National Park - Nearest Service is in Bismark, North Dakota
How to Drive to Theodore Roosevelt National Park -
The North and South units are in western North Dakota. The South Unit
entrance and Visitor Center are located in Medora, just off Interstate
94 (exits 23 & 27) and is 135 miles west of Bismarck, North Dakota.
The Painted Canyon Visitor Center is located 7 miles east of Medora just
off I-94 at exit 32. The North Unit entrance is located 16 miles south
of Watford City along U.S. Highway 85. The distance between Medora at
the South Unit and the North Unit is 70 miles via I-94 and U. S. Highway
Weather & Climate
Summers are warm with temperatures in the 80s and 90s with a few days into the 100s on some years. Evenings can be cool. Average maximum: July is 87.1 degrees and August is 86.7 degrees. Average minimum: July 54.5 degrees and August is 52.4 degrees. Annual precipitation is 15 inches. Winters are generally cold. Recommend layers of clothing, especially in spring and fall. Rain gear in spring. Hat for sun protection is needed in summer.
The Visitor Center is accessible to wheelchairs.
Camping at Theodore Roosevelt National
Open All Year
Located in the South Unit of the park. First come, first served (no reservations accepted). 70 sites. Pull-through sites are available. A group site is available and reservations are accepted. No water, sewer or electrical hook-ups. No showers. A picnic table and grill are at each site. Flush toilets and running water are available from May through September. Each site, except the group site, is limited to a maximum of 6 people. The fee is $10 per site per night. The group site is for 7 to 20 people. The fee is $2 per person/minumum fee $20.
Open All Year
Located in the North Unit of the park. First come, first served. No reservations accepted. 50 sites. A group site is also available and reservations are accepted. No showers or water, sewer or electrical hook-ups. A dump station is available from May - September. There is no water available from October through April. A picnic table and grill are at each site. Pull-through sites are available. Each site is limited to a maximum of 6 people, except the group site. The fee is $10 per site per night from May - September. $5 per site per night from October - April. The group site is for groups of 7 to 60 people. The fee is $2 per person/minumum $20 per night.
Roundup Group Camp
Open Summers Only
Group campsite. Horse use permitted. Reservations taken beginning March 1. Visit the park's web site for more information.
Activities and More Information
on Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Bison Roam throughout the park and should be given a wide berth if met along the trail. Check at the visitor centers to learn those areas bison frequent and where they have been recently sighted.
Mule Deer Most often seen between dusk and dawn anywhere along the park road in open areas. They usually seek shade in dense juniper groves during the beat of the day.
Elk In the South Unit only, elk are most often seen feeding in early morning or evening on open grassland sites in the Buck Hill area and in the southeastern quarter of the park. Generally seek the shade of hardwood and juniper draws during the beat of midday.
Prairie Dogs The park road passes through three large prairie dog towns in the South Unit. No dog towns can be seen from the North Unit road; the nearest is a one-mile hike from the Caprock-Coulee parking area. Be sure you take the right-hand turn after crossing the footbridge
Coyotes More often heard than seen. They usually howl once night falls and may be seen in the early mornings running anywhere across the park road.
If you are traveling west on 1-94, your first introduction to the park is the Painted Canyon Overlook, about seven miles east of Medora. Here on the upper margin of the badlands is a magnificent panorama of the broken topography in its colorful hues. At the overlook, a visitor center, restrooms, picnic shelters, tables, and water are available generally April through October. A short walk provides access during winter when facilities are closed. East of Painted Canyon you can sometimes see wild horses, the descendants of former domestic ranching stock. No admission fees are charged at Painted Canyon.
Continue to the South Unit Entrance in Medora. Stop at the museum in the Medora Visitor Center to see personal items of Theodore Roosevelt, ranching artifacts. and natural history displays. The restored Maltese Cross cabin, which was Roosevelt's first ranch house in the badlands, is behind the visitor center. Also take in a ranger program or two from June through September. Programs include guided tours of Roosevelt's cabin, short talks, evening walks and hikes, 4 hour hikes, and evening campfire programs
A major feature of the South Unit is a paved, 36 mile, scenic loop road with interpretive signs that explain some of the park's historical and natural phenomena. The following descriptions give you an idea of what you can expect to see and find at some of the points:
Scoria Point - True scoria is volcanic in origin. Locally, however, wherever a seam of coal has caught fire and baked the surrounding sand and clay into a kind of natural brick, it has been given the name scoria. Over the years erosion has removed the softer earth and left the bluffs capped with this harder, more resistant material.
Ridgeline Nature Trail - This self-guiding loop trail gives you information about the badlands scenery and ecology and about the role of fire, wind, and water in this area. Length: 0.6 mile.
North Dakota Badlands - Looking across Paddock Creek, you see a field of bumps. Erosion has worn away all but the hardest materials, leaving the maze of buttes and canyons.
Coal Vein Trail - From 1951 until early 1977 a fire burned here in a coal seam. The intense heat baked the adjacent clay and sand, greatly altering the appearance of the terrain and disturbing the vegetation. Length: 0.8 mile.
Buck Hill - A short walk leads to this hill, which has an elevation of 2,855 feet. Note that only shrubs and other small plants grow on the dry, hot, south-facing slopes, and that trees grow on the wetter. cooler, north-facing hillsides.
Boicourt Overlook - One of the best views of the badlands in the park is from this overlook.
Wind Canyon -A short trail up the ridge leads to an overlook of both a graceful bend in the Little Missouri River and also the wind-sculpted sands of the canyon. A short way beyond the river the wilderness area begins.
Jones Creek Trail - This trail that leads through the heart of the badlands reaches the road at two points. It may be hiked from either end. Length: 3.7 miles.
Peaceful Valley - This was the site of a horse ranch during the 1880s heyday of cattle ranching. The high central section of the ranch house was built about 1885.
Petrified Forest - The greatest collection of petrified wood in the park can be reach only by foot or on horseback. Besides the petrified wood here, pieces may be found scattered throughout the park, though not in such great quantity. Length from Peaceful Valley: 16 miles round trip.
DeMores State Historic Site - Near the town of Medora is the 27-room chateau that the Marquis DeMores built for his wife in 1884. The Marquis was a wealthy French nobleman who built a slaughterhouse to process beef from the local herds for shipping to market in the new refrigerated railroad cars. He also built the town of Medora, which he named for his wife, and persuaded the Northern Pacific Railroad to build a station there. He was an acquaintance of Theodore Roosevelt. Conducted tours of the chateau are usually offered from late May through September.
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