Tag Archive | Theodore Roosevelt

West 2016: Theodore Roosevelt NP

Day 2: August 6, 2016

I have been itching to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park for awhile; ever since I found out about the park’s history and all the wildlife that live within its borders.  And I was almost there!

We woke up in Glendive, Montana, with the park as the destination on our agenda for the day.  We got on our way and stopped at the grocery store to get a picnic lunch, and then the drive to Theodore Roosevelt National Park took about an hour.  The awesome thing about the highways out there is that they are wide open, so we made great time!

We didn’t check out Medora, North Dakota while we were there, but it looked like a fun little tourist town with lots to do for families.  The town has an Old West theme, and lots of entertainment for all ages.  It seemed like a great place to hang out for a few days on a vacation in the area.

The West Entrance to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. And me!

The West Entrance to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. And me!

Once we got into the park, we stopped in at the Visitor’s Center – we got our stamps and postcards, and we watched the park’s movie.  I love watching the park movies.  We also saw Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin, which has been moved to its current location right behind the Visitor’s Center.  Theodore Roosevelt spent $14,000 to establish his cattle ranch in North Dakota in 1883 and the cabin was built during that winter.  He came back out after his wife and mother both died on Valentine’s Day, 1884 and spent time recovering from the loss.

We listened to the Ranger Talk about Roosevelt and his time in North Dakota – the cattle ranch was basically a disaster.  The winter of 1886-1887 was a devastating one and most of the cattle starved to death when they couldn’t get to the grass beneath the snow.  Roosevelt wasn’t there at the time though, having already returned East.  Although Roosevelt didn’t last long in North Dakota, his legacy remains.  The cabin is open for people to poke around in, and there are a couple of pieces of furniture that are believed to have belonged to Roosevelt -his rocking chair and his trunk.

Theodore Roosevelt's Maltese Cross Cabin - Built 1883

Theodore Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin – Built 1883

I found a couple of hikes I wanted to do at the park – although I decided not to do anything too long or strenuous because of time restraints, and the fact that the temperature was in the high 80s that day.  My hikes were an opportunity to see some of my first Badlands views of the trip!  Rather than hiking, Mom opted to stay at the car and do some journaling and sketching while I went off.

The first hike that I did was the Ridgeline Trail – a 0.6 mile (roundtrip) hike that offered great views of the badlands along the ridge.  At this point, as the badlands is just beginning, they are much greener and lush than they are further east.  There was a marked difference in the views here and the badlands that were visible further east when we went to Badlands National Park later in the trip.  The views were gorgeous and it was well worth the climb.  It was very windy here, so my selfies were a bit challenging!

The view of the badlands from the Ridgeline Trail

The view of the badlands from the Ridgeline Trail

 

Me with the badlands in the background - Ridgeline Trail

Me with the badlands in the background – Ridgeline Trail

 

Piddles posing with the badlands

Piddles posing with the badlands

The second hike that I did was to the Buck Hill Viewpoint – it is a 0.2 mile (round trip) climb to the highest point in the park. The view was amazing – there were similarities to the Ridgeline Trail, yet there were subtle differences too.  I could have looked at that view for awhile…

The view from the top of Buck Hill - the highest point in the park

The view from the top of Buck Hill – the highest point in the park

 

A lone tree at the Buck Hill viewpoint

A lone tree at the Buck Hill viewpoint

The last hike that I did was the Wind Canyon Trail.  It is a 0.4 mile (round trip) out and back hike with wonderful views of the Little Missouri River, and its oxbow bend (where the river bends in a U shape).  This viewpoint is well known for its fabulous sunsets; I would have liked to have checked out the sunset from there, but since it was the middle of summer, we needed to be on our way before the sun was due to set.  The views of the river and of a large herd of bison grazing in the distance were both spectacular!  I even found a kind man to take my photo at the viewpoint.

The Little Missouri River, from the Wind Canyon Trail. There is a large herd of bison in the far upper left corner of the photo.

The Little Missouri River, from the Wind Canyon Trail. There is a large herd of bison in the far upper left corner of the photo.

 

Me at the Wind Canyon viewpoint, overlooking the Little Missouri River

Me at the Wind Canyon viewpoint, overlooking the Little Missouri River

We saw a lot of wildlife while we were in the park too, but I am saving the wildlife for my next post though!

 

Theodore Roosevelt National Park History

In 1883, Theodore Roosevelt headed out to North Dakota to hunt bison, who were at that point close to extinction. He fell in love with the bison, hunting, and the rugged extremes of the area.  While there, he decided to purchase the Maltese Cross Ranch – a cattle ranch already being managed by two men, and he left it in their hands. He returned for the rugged solitude after his wife and mother both died on Valentine’s Day, 1884, and purchased and developed another ranch a bit further north. He credits his time in North Dakota as helping to get over the loss and his gut wrenching grief.

Both ranches operated for a couple of years, until a particularly harsh winter in 1886-1887 wiped out most of his cattle, who were unable to get down to the grasses beneath the snow. Although his ranches ultimately failed, his time in North Dakota and his experiences on his ranches guided his later conservation attitudes and policies during and after his Presidency.

After Roosevelt died in 1919, the government began exploring the Little Missouri Badlands to see if there were options for park sites. The CCC had camps in the park between 1934 and 1941, and they made roads and built some of the buildings still in use today. It was designated the Roosevelt Recreation Demonstration Area in 1935, although I have no idea what they were demonstrating.

In 1946 the designation was changed to the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge and the land was transferred to the US Department of Fish and Wildlife. But then President Truman stepped in and established the Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park on April 25, 1947. It was the only National Memorial Park ever established – somehow I guess the concept didn’t really take off. In 1978, more land was added to the park and the boundaries were changed, and it finally became Theodore Roosevelt National Park on November 10, 1978. Talk about a roundabout way to get to National Park status!

The West Entrance to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. And me!

The West Entrance to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. And me!

The park today consists of three units that are geographically separate from each other. The South Unit, near Medora, North Dakota is the most visited unit, and contains a wide variety of wildlife, including bison, prairie dogs, feral horses, coyotes, badgers, elk, bighorn sheep, cougars, white-tailed deer and mule deer, and more than 100 species of birds including golden eagles, sharp-tailed grouse, and wild turkeys. The North Unit is about 80 miles north of the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit, which contains the site of Roosevelt’s second ranch, is in between the two.

The climate is one of extremes; the prairie grasslands get very hot in the summer, and winter temperatures are very cold with lots of snow. The Little Missouri River flows through all three units of the park. Wildlife spotting is a popular activity, due to the abundance of large animals in the park.  There are over 100 miles of hiking trails, and visitors can also do back country horseback trips. They just need to be prepared for hot summer weather and little protection from the sun. There are three developed campgrounds in the park; two in the South Unit and one in the North Unit. The sky is known for its dark night skies, and the northern lights are even sometimes visible.

In total, there are 70,446 acres under the protection of the park, and in 2011, it received 563,407 visitors. It is certainly one of the lesser visited parks, due to its more remote location.  I was excited to visit again, because I had visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park in 1978, shortly before it gained National Park status.  I have the pictures to prove it!  More in my upcoming posts!