Established November 10, 1978, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is named after our 26th President and it is the only National Park in the United States that is named after a person. Whether you are driving through the park or hiking on one of the many trails you will marvel at the different rock formations, be amazed at the abundance of wildlife and captivated by the history of the park and the man it honors.
Roosevelt first came to the Dakota Territory to hunt bison in 1883. (North Dakota didn’t become a State until 1889) It was while on his hunting expeditions in North Dakota and later as a rancher there that Theodore Roosevelt developed a growing concern for the land, the rivers and lakes and the preservation of wildlife. During his presidency Roosevelt used “his authority to protect wildlife and public lands creating the United States Forest Service (USFS)” He established 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks and 18 national monuments. He also created the American Antiquities Act of 1906 which would allow the President to “declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic and scientific interest… to be National Monuments.”
It was Theodore Roosevelt who saved the Grand Canyon. When he wanted to establish the Grand Canyon as a National Park Congress fought him so he used his executive power to protect it as a national monument in 1908. It wasn’t until 1919 that the Grand Canyon was established as a National Park.
“We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.” – Theodore Roosevelt
President Theodore Roosevelt protected over 230 million acres of public land! We owe him a debt of gratitude!
And with that we begin exploring Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, the State that fostered our President’s love of land and wildlife.
Heading west on I-94 and before you reach Medora you will see a turn-off to Painted Canyon. (Exit 32) The Painted Canyon has a great overlook that will give you a glimpse of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
The Painted Canyon Visitor Center is a great place to stop. You will find beautiful panoramic views, exhibits and displays, Theodore Roosevelt Nature and History Association Bookstore, vending machines, and picnic shelters. The entire facility and overlook walkways are wheelchair accessible. The center is open from May thru October.
VIEW FROM THE OVERLOOK ON A FOGGY MORNING
THEODORE NATIONAL PARK
THE NORTH UNIT:
The 14 mile drive in the North Unit is not to be missed. It follows the north rim of the Little Missouri River Valley and the geological formations are unique and the overlooks give you amazing views of the hills and the Little Missouri River.
Cannon ball Concretions are the most unusual formations I’ve ever seen. It is difficult to imagine how these smooth cannon balls could be formed by wind, water and time while embedded in rock.
The Slump Formations are not that unusual, but I really appreciated that throughout the park there was signage.
The River Bend Overlook offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the Badlands. There are also steps going down to a shelter on the overlook. The steps and shelter were built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930s.
Other sights in the North Unit
South Unit is a 35 mile scenic drive through the southern part of the park and can be accessed by taking Exit 27 to Medora where the South Unit Visitor Center is located.
While we saw wildlife throughout both Units they were friendlier and obviously more use to humans in the South Unit. Some bison got a little too close for comfort. Normally that wouldn’t alarm me but I have no idea how they react when they are with their calves. Obviously they will go to any lengths to protect them.
There is one more area in the park which is said to be very interesting and where you will a lot of wildlife. That is The Elkhorn Ranch Unit. This was the area that Theodore Roosevelt chose for one of his Ranches and it is where he lived when he was in North Dakota. It is said to be very beautiful. It is also very difficult to get to. You access it by gravel roads and the condition of those roads is not always good. There is also a 1.5 mile round trip walk to the home site. The rangers suggest you always check with them before you head to the Ranch.
There are several campgrounds throughout the park and numerous hiking trails. The link here rates the trails from easy to strenuous. HIKING TRAILS
I found Theodore Roosevelt National Park a great place to spend a day or more, a great place to camp and a great place to hike.
The sun now sets over the hills and valleys that over a hundred years ago inspired a man to preserve 230 million acres of land for future generations.