Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park


Description of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Location: Billings County/ McKenzie County  Map

Area: 70,448 acres (285 km²)


Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a national park in the USA. It consists of eroded landscapes (badlands) and prairie in western North Dakota and is divided into three parts along the Little Missouri River.

In addition to the extraordinary landscape, the national park was also established in honor of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, who ran a ranch in the park area.

The national park, founded on November 10, 1978, is 285 km² in size. The two main parts are about 130 km apart. In a somewhat remote section of the park lie the remains of the Elkhorn Ranch, built by Theodore Roosevelt in 1884. The three parts of the park are surrounded by the prairie of the Little Missouri National Grassland.

In the 1950s, the American bison was reintroduced to the region. Mustangs, pronghorns, prairie dogs and coyotes also live in the park. The number of mustangs is kept at a constant level of around 70 to 110 animals by catching surplus animals. The number of bison is also regulated. The population is limited to 200-400 animals in the southern part and 100-300 in the northern part. As part of the scenery that Theodore Roosevelt treasured, a herd of longhorn cattle is kept.

Theodore Roosevelt became a supporter of nature conservation because of his experiences in the region, such as the severe decimation of bison and the consequences of overgrazing. During his presidency he founded 5 national parks, 18 national monuments, 51 national wildlife refuges and the US Forest Service with 108 national forests.

Visitor Information - Park Headquarters, (701) 623-4466.
Visitor Information - North Unit, (701) 842-2333.
Visitor Information - South Unit, (701) 623-4730 ext. 3417.
If visiting multiple sites in one day, remember that the North Unit is in the Central Time Zone, while the South Unit follows Mountain Time.



The two main units of the park have viewpoints, approximately 160 km of trails and horse tracks, wildlife viewing sites, and places for hiking and camping. There are three campgrounds built: Juniper Campground in the North Unit and Cottonwood Campground and Roundup Group Horse in the South Unit.

One of the park's most popular attractions is the chance to spot wildlife. The park is home to a wide variety of Great Plains wildlife such as bison, wild horses, elk, muskets, white-tailed and mule deer, prairie dogs, and at least 186 species of birds including golden eagles, prairie grouse and wild turkeys. Bison can be dangerous and visitors are advised to observe them from a distance. Bison, elk and musmon have been successfully reintroduced to the park.

The landscape constantly changes following the passing of the seasons. The brownish, dormant grass is ubiquitous from late summer to late winter but displays a vibrant green color in early summer alongside hundreds of species of flowering plants. Winter is alluring when snow covers the harsh terrain of the wastelands and transforms the park into what Theodore Roosevelt called "the home of flattened desolation."

The badlands were of great importance in the life of Theodore Roosevelt and the park is a reminder of his contribution to the conservation of America's natural resources. A museum located in the South Unit visitor center provides information about Theodore Roosevelt and his ranching days. Roosevelt's Maltese Cross hut is open to the public year-round in the same visitor center.

Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch is a remote area of the park 55 km north of Medora that is accessible via gravel roads. Road conditions and access routes should be checked with park rangers. The ranch's foundation and some commercial buildings have been preserved although parts of the cabin were removed and moved after Roosevelt abandoned the ranch. Threats to the Elkhorn Ranch include nearby oil developments, especially visual pollution and odors from oil processing and traffic.

The park is a popular hiking and horseback riding destination and camping permits can be obtained at the visitor centers in both units. The more than 160 km of trails make it a suitable park for hiking but along the paths water and shade are scarce even along the paths. The park units are primarily surrounded by Forest Service national grasslands. The area's night skies are especially dark, making it an ideal place for stargazing and, occasionally, the Northern Lights.

The park is completely surrounded by a 2.1 m high wire fence to keep bison and wild horses inside the park and livestock out of it. Other animals may pass over, under or through the fence in specific places arranged for that purpose.

The town of Medora, at the entrance to the southern drive, provides a western tourist experience, with plank sidewalks, old-style ice cream shops, and carriage rides. There are several museums and the Burning Hills Amphitheater offers nightly performances of the "Medora Musical" from late June to early September.

The park officially controls the population of bison, horses and elk to maintain a balanced ecosystem. Biologists also monitor prairie dog populations, although the park only monitors their populations on occasions when they pose a threat to buildings or human health.


Connection with Roosevelt

Roosevelt arrived in North Dakota for the first time in September 1883 to hunt bison. During this first short trip he managed to hunt animals and fell in love with the harsh lifestyle and the "perfect freedom" of the West. He invested $ 14,000 at the Maltese Cross Ranch that was being managed by Sylvane Ferris and Bill Merrifield seven miles south of Medora and that winter Ferris and Merrifield built the Maltese Cross cabin. After the death of his wife and mother on the same day, February 14, 1884, Teddy Roosevelt returned to his ranch in North Dakota seeking solitude and time to heal. That summer he began the construction of his second ranch, Elkhorn Ranch, 35 miles north of Medora for which he hired two Maine lumberjacks, Bill Sewall and Wilmot Dow, to take care of them. Teddy Roosevelt developed a great interest in his ranches and hunting in the West and detailed his experiences in articles published in eastern newspapers and magazines. He wrote three important works about his life in the West: Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman and The Wilderness Hunter. the wild lands).

The risks and efforts of his "exhausting" life in the wild and the loss of his livestock during the winter of the famine of 1886-1887 were very influential in the initiatives for conservation that Theodore Roosevelt developed as president of the United States (1901 -1909).


After the death of Theodore Roosevelt in 1919 explorations were carried out in the Badlands of Little Missouri to determine possible locations of a park. Camps of the Civil Conservation Corps were set up in the future units of the park between 1934 and 1941 and roads and other structures that are still used today were built. The area received the designation of Roosevelt Recreation Demonstration Area in 1935. It came under the control of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under the name of Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge (national refuge for wildlife) and on 25 April 1947 President Truman established Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park, the first and only National Memorial Park established in the history of the country. In 1978, already with the addition of the modifications in its limits and the inclusion of 121,1 km2 of Theodore Roosevelt Wilderness (wild area), the name of the zone happened to be national park Theodore Roosevelt.


Fees and permits

Entrance fees are good for seven days and allow entry into all units of the park:
$20 per vehicle for private vehicles.
$15 per motorcycle.
$10 per person travelling on foot, horse, or by bike.
An annual pass that grants unlimited entry to Theodore Roosevelt National Park for one year costs $40.

There are several passes for groups traveling together in a private vehicle or individuals on foot or on bike. These passes provide free entry at national parks and national wildlife refuges, and also cover standard amenity fees at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation. These passes are valid at all national parks including Theodore Roosevelt National Park:

The $80 Annual Pass (valid for twelve months from date of issue) can be purchased by anyone. Military personnel can obtain a free annual pass in person at a federal recreation site by showing a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID.
U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over can obtain a Senior Pass (valid for the life of the holder) in person at a federal recreation site for $80, or through the mail for $90; applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and age. This pass also provides a fifty percent discount on some park amenities. Seniors can also obtain a $20 annual pass.
U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities can obtain an Access Pass (valid for the life of the holder) in person at a federal recreation site at no charge, or through the mail for $10; applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and permanent disability. This pass also provides a fifty percent discount on some park amenities.
Individuals who have volunteered 250 or more hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program can receive a free Volunteer Pass.
4th graders can receive an Annual 4th Grade Pass that allows free entry for the duration of the 4th grade school year (September-August) to the bearer and any accompanying passengers in a private non-commercial vehicle. Registration at the Every Kid in a Park website is required.
In 2018 the National Park Service will offer four days on which entry is free for all national parks: January 15 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), April 21 (1st Day of NPS Week), September 22 (National Public Lands Day), and November 11 (Veterans Day weekend).



The park's South Unit is located off Interstate 94 near the town of Medora. The North Unit is located approximately 80 miles north of the South Unit on Highway 85, south of Watford City. Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch is located between the North and South Units, approximately 20 miles west of U.S. 85 and Fairfield. The entire park is contained within the Little Missouri National Grassland, and the Little Missouri River flows through the park. The Maah Daah Hey Trail connects the three areas of the park.



In 1884, after the deaths of his wife and mother (on the same day), Roosevelt traveled to his North Dakota ranch to rebuild his life and recover from the tragedy. The Badlands were a catharsis for him and although he returned east several times, for over two years he ranched in the area and published articles about his experiences in newspapers and magazines. from the East Coast. Once he returned east and entered politics, his former life as a cowboy and rancher influenced his policies as president.



By the 1880s, bison were endangered in the Badlands. Today, several hundred bison, approximately 600, thrive in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. They even provide breeding stock thanks to which we have been able to build up other herds elsewhere. Mouflons have also been reintroduced into the park. Moose, mountain lions, elk, prairie dogs, coyotes, wild mustangs, white-tailed deer and rattlesnakes can also be seen. At least 186 species of birds can be seen, including golden eagles, grouse and wild turkeys.



In the southeast of the park, the waters of the Little Missouri, the torrential rains of summer, the melting of snow in spring and the often very violent wind have sculpted canyons, hills and domes in the ocher clay and sandstone. red, pink and gray. Little sensitive to the beauty of the landscape, the trappers who discovered the region named it Badlands, “Bad Lands” in French.



The region experiences a harsh climate: temperatures can exceed 35°C in summer while in winter they remain below -30°C for long periods.