Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Former President Theodore Roosevelt was big on conservation, and 100 years ago his efforts to preserve some of the nation’s natural beauty for all time led to the formation of the National Park Service. See what Roosevelt made all the fuss about by visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The park within the North Dakota Badlands consists of the North, South and Elkhorn Ranch units. Make time to visit each of the park’s units as all three are unique.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park offers majestic Badlands scenery, abundant wildlife and all kinds of adventures of your own making. Roosevelt got his first glimpse or the wonders of this area as a young man. It didn’t take long for him to recognize the scenic beauty that surrounded him. He credits the time spent here as that which put him on the path to becoming president.
During his administration, President Theodore Roosevelt founded the United States Forest Service, signed the National Monuments Act and established the first federal game preserve. His conservation efforts led to the founding of the National Park Service, established to preserve and protect unspoiled places like his beloved North Dakota Badlands, now known as Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
The South Unit is along I-94 in western North Dakota. Here the Badlands have been shaped by millions of years of wind, rain, erosion, fire and the meandering Little Missouri River. The area was described in 1864 by Gen. Alfred Sully as “hell with the fires out.” The main access to the South Unit is through the historic town of Medora. Within the South Unit, a 36-mile scenic loop provides easy access to the many species of wildlife inhabiting this wilderness area. For a panorama of the Badlands, stop at Painted Canyon Visitors Center along the interstate and Take a long look at the Badlands stretching to the horizon.
The North Unit, accessible from U.S. Highway 85 south of Watford City, has deeper gorges and is heavily forested in places. The beauty and allure of the North Unit draws visitors year-round for sweeping vistas of this designated wilderness. A 14-mile scenic byway through the park brings visitors up close to the bison herds wondering through the rugged terrain.
The byway beginning at U.S. Highway 85 proceeds west through the North Unit. As 82 percent of the North Unit is designated wilderness area, you are likely to see buffalo herds and prairie dog towns, and you may catch a glimpse of wild horses, mule deer, elk and maybe even a coyote on your trip through the park.
The Elkhorn Ranch Unit is the location of Roosevelt’s original ranch in the Badlands, located in between the two larger units. The remote location features interpretive plaques on the site to provide details of the ranch. Hiking trails abound in all three locations, including the renowned Maah Haah Hey Trail. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is open year-round.
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