Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located in the Badlands in western North Dakota. The South Unit of the park offers a scenic loop drive with pullouts to stop and enjoy the views. The South Unit Visitor Center is next to the town of Medora, and offers a museum with exhibits on the history of the park and Theodore Roosevelt. A 17-minute video introduces visitors to the park and museum.



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Adjacent to the Visitor Center is the Maltese Cross Cabin, a historical log cabin which first belonged to Theodore Roosevelt, who credits his time in North Dakota with influencing him to become president of the United States. The Elkhorn Ranch Unit of the park protects Roosevelt’s original home in the Badlands, although today, all that remains of the original ranch is a collection of stones from the foundation. The visitor center at the North Unit of the park offers a film and exhibits. A 14-mile scenic drive begins at this visitor center, offering interpretive signage along the way. Hiking trails in the park range from easy to strenuous, and cover a variety of terrain such as canyons and river bottoms, plateaus, steep climbs, grassy prairies, and even a prairie dog town, which can be reached via the moderate Buckhorn Trail. Hikers and boaters with backcountry permits may camp in the park. The Little Missouri River is most accessible for canoeing and kayaking during the summer months of May and June. Other park activities include bicycling and horseback riding. Horses are permitted on all trails. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular in the winter months, as the park receives approximately 30 inches of snow per year, over a season that can span October through April. The park offers two campsites for tents and RV’s along the Little Missouri River, the Juniper and Cottonwood Campgrounds. Only a few of the sites are reservable in advance. Both offer potable water, restroom facilities, and raised grills at each campsite. The Roundup Group Horse campground may be reserved by groups and offers raised platforms for tents, a covered picnic area, and ample space for 20 people with 20 horses.

History: The site for the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, in memoriam to the 26th president of the United States, was chosen shortly after his death in 1919. In 1921 the North Dakota legislature and their representatives in congress began to set aside land for the park. By 1924 a group that would later become the Roosevelt Memorial National Park Association set out to explore the Little Missouri Badlands to outline the boundaries of the park. Studies, proposals and counter-proposals would take place over the next several years, as some groups wished to set aside over 2,000 square miles, while other groups felt the land was too valuable to ranchers and preferred a small monument over a park. By 1946, the land accumulated by the government over the years was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a wildlife sanctuary. Many still felt the land did not warrant National Park status, and the Parks Service itself voted against it. At last, in 1947, President Truman signed the bill that rendered the South and Elkhorn Units the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park, with the North Unit added in 1948. The park received full National Park status in 1978 under President Carter, recognizing the diverse natural and cultural resources of the area.

Ongoing Programs and Education: The park offers self-guided nature trails, with signage interpreting the local flora and fauna. During the summer, ranger-led programs are available including Ranger Talks, Ranger Walks and Ranger Hikes, each of which educate guests on the history, biology and geology of the park. Evening campfire programs offer ranger talks at the Cottonwood or Juniper campgrounds. Ranger talks are also offered daily during the summer at the Maltese Cross Cabin, adjacent to the South Unit Visitor Center. The annual Dakota Nights Astronomy Festival takes place in the park each September. The three-day event brings together rangers, astronomers and historians for stargazing, presentations and children’s events including rocket making and launching.

What’s Nearby: The Maah Daah Hey Trail, considered the best non-motorized trail in the Badlands, is a 96-mile trail maintained by the U.S. Forest Service which connects the Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s North Unit with the Sully Creek State Park. Bikes and horses are allowed on this long, winding trail that traverses the Dakota Prairie Grasslands.

PO Box 7 Medora, ND 58645, Phone: 701-623-4466

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