Theodore Roosevelt National Park
The park is comprised of three sections covering 110 square miles of land with the Little Missouri River flowing through it and the Maah Daah Hey Trail connecting all three units. When Roosevelt first came to the North Dakota badlands in 1883 it was to hunt bison. He fell in love with the rugged lifestyle of the West and eventually invested in two ranches, the Maltese Cross Ranch and the Elkhorn Ranch both near the town of Medora. Roosevelt’s cabin at Maltese Cross is open to the public year round as part of the South Unit Visitor Center.
It was to the badlands that Roosevelt retreated following the deaths of his first wife and mother in 1884. He wrote three books about his ranch life: “Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail,” “Hunting Trips of a Ranchman,” and “The Wilderness Hunter.” The loss of his cattle in 1886-1887 and his other “strenuous life” adventures influenced his policies regarding conservation during his time as President of the United States (1901-1909).
After Roosevelt died in 1919 it was proposed that all or part of the Little Missouri Badlands should become a park. From 1934 to 1941 the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) developed roads and other structures that are still in use today. The park is home to a variety of wildlife such as bison, horses, elk, bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer, mule deer, prairie dogs, Black-footed Ferrets and almost 200 different species of birds including wild turkeys. The population of bison, horses and elk are managed by the Park to keep a balanced ecosystem. Prairie dogs are monitored by biologists but only controlled when they pose a threat to buildings or human health.
The park is popular for backcountry hiking and horseback riding. Permits are required for camping.
The badlands landscape is very different than the Pacific Northwest but it is still beautiful. We took a trip through the badlands in 2000 and saw bison, mountain goats, and prairie dogs as well as miles and miles of rocks and dirt with a few trees interspersed.
Views of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Bison along the road
Prairie dogs live under the ground and built very large “towns” with tunnels that can extend over a vast territory. They pop up and look around every once and awhile and also come out to eat whatever available vegetation might be found. When we stopped for a picnic in the park and stayed quiet soon there were several little critters popping up. They do not exactly bark but they do make sounds to communicate with each other.
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