Theodore Roosevelt National Park

October 09, 2019

by Steve

We tend to write about our travels at least a couple weeks after we were in a place. So when you're reading that we are in North Dakota in the middle of October, rest assured that we are not dodging blizzards; we were there earlier, when the weather was nicer.  

We continued our trek across North Dakota by going to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, on the far western end of the state. We didn't know much about this park, other than it is the "badlands" of North Dakota, and it was this wild country that motivated Teddy Roosevelt to set aside so many National Parks, Monuments, and Forests. (5 parks, 18 monuments, 150 forests. Read more here). TRNP has a South Unit and a North Unit. As with the Grand Canyon, most people visit the South Unit (probably because it is on the I-94 Interstate), but both units are worth your time.


The Little Missouri River runs through TRNP, and carves out interesting landscapes.


There are odd volcanic boulders embedded in eroded canyon walls, and new ones being exposed over time.


Wild horses roam the park. We saw several groups. This horse was fairly close to the road and posed nicely.


Both the South and North units of the park are home to multiple prairie dog towns.The residents seem to be quite comfortable with humans nearby, but they got rather agitated when a coyote showed up.


We saw this lone coyote crossing the road in a prairie dog town. The prairie dogs were not pleased with him being there. The bison couldn't care less.


There are numerous bison in the park, in both the South and North units. We saw some solitary ones and several groups. When a group crosses the road, it can make for a brief traffic jam, as the bison do not look before merging and do not signal lane changes. I photographed this bison from a safe distance using a telephoto lens.


We took several hikes in the part, including an interesting trek to a section of the park with petrified tree stumps. Some of these are small, but others are pretty massive stumps, still in the bank of the riverbed where they were formed millions of years ago.


TRNP doesn't have one single feature that makes it stand out, like Grand Teton has a mountain range and Grand Canyon has a big hole in the ground. What it does have is a lot of really interesting features all rolled together in a really wild section of land, and that makes it worth visiting.

If you go, allow 2-3 days to fully see the park, depending on how much time you spend hiking.In the summer season, the town of Medora has an on-going musical presentation that is quite an attraction, as well as a show with an actor playing Teddy Roosevelt.

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