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Theodore Roosevelt National Park – A Hidden Treasure

Updated on May 14, 2014
Feral horses at Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Feral horses at Theodore Roosevelt National Park | Source

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the lesser known parks, claiming only 623,748 visitors in 2010 compared to Yellowstone National Park which boasted 3,640,185 visitors. Located in North Dakota, this 70,446 acre park offers breathtaking panoramas of the badlands and up-close views of wild horses, bison, elk, prairie dogs, deer, grouse, and pronghorns. You can hike through a petrified forest or see Bison herds grazing along the Little Missouri River.

Teddy Roosevelt Loved This Land

For fans of Theodore Roosevelt, this park is a must-see, as it really gives you some insight into his life before he became president. Roosevelt came to this land to hunt buffalo in 1883, and decided to go into business as a cattle rancher by the end of the trip. Only five months later, his wife Alice and his mother died on Valentine's Day. Grief stricken, Roosevelt came back out to North Dakota to find consolation. While in the badlands he stayed at the Maltese Cross Cabin until 1984, then built the Elkhorn Ranch where he spent most of his time. The park offers tours of the Maltese Cross Cabin. For the more adventurous, you can drive on an undeveloped road to the Elkhorn Ranch which is about 35 miles north of Medora.

The Maltese Cross Cabin - Theodore Roosevelt National Park
The Maltese Cross Cabin - Theodore Roosevelt National Park | Source

Where To Stay

My husband and I visited this park in 2010 during a cross country tour in our 30 foot travel trailer. We were looking for a campground with full hookups, and so we camped at Medora municipal campground . Campsites range from $20.00 nighty for a primitive site to $35.00 nightly for a 50 amp hookup with water, sewer and electric. There is a community pool adjacent to the park where you can swim for a small fee. The park is an adequate central place to stay since it is conveniently situated a few miles from the South entrance of the park.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park offers three campgrounds, but none of them have hookups. Juniper Campground and Cottonwood Campground offer individual campsites, accommodating tents, trailers and RVs. These campsites are only available on a first come first served basis. There is also Roundup Group Horse Campground for group camping.

For you non-campers, there are plenty of hotels in the historical town of Medora. Founded in 1883 by the French nobleman the Marquis de Mores, the town was named for his bride Medora von Hoffman. This quaint little town offers entertainment centered around Theodore Roosevelt - the Western style Medora Musical and the one act play "Bully". If you're a golfer, there's the beautiful Bully Pulpit Golf Course. We didn't have time to play it, but it looks wonderful.

Exploring The Park

The park is divided into two sections - North and South. We toured the South loop of the park two times, and drove out to the North loop on the third day of our stay. I think what enchanted me most about the park were the wild horses. According to the National Park Service, feral horses were almost exterminated during the modern ranching era because they were seen as a nuisance. In the 1950s and 1960s efforts were made to protect them, culminating in the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Today these magnificent creatures can be seen roaming freely throughout the park. Luckily, I managed to get some great video of them.

Both South and North loops treat you to many overlooks offering spectacular views of the North Dakota badlands. We look the short walk up Wind Canyon trail, which ends in an overlook that gives you a view of the Little Missouri River and the canyon. We were fortunate to come across a herd of Bison peacefully grazing below us.

When you gaze at the muted pastel hills and valleys of this wild land, with the wind blowing through the canyon, you gain a sense of why Roosevelt loved this land so much. It has a mysterious and riveting beauty that it uniquely its own. It is a national treasure well worth visiting.

View of the badlands - Theodore Roosevelt National Park
View of the badlands - Theodore Roosevelt National Park | Source
Bison grazing at Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Bison grazing at Theodore Roosevelt National Park | Source
Feral horses at Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Feral horses at Theodore Roosevelt National Park | Source
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park | Source
Little Missouri River - Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Little Missouri River - Theodore Roosevelt National Park | Source

Here's a video I took of the beautiful wild horses

© 2011 Margaret Perrottet

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    • chuckbl profile image

      Charlie 5 years ago from Scotland

      Those horses are amazing! Are they completely wild? So beautiful to see something like that, I'd love to go there. Thanks for sharing. Up, and beautiful!

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 5 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      Voted up, useful and interesting. I was thrilled to read this article, look at the great pics and view the glorious video of these wild creatures. I have never heard of this park, but the scenery was breathtaking. I kept waiting to see Ben, Hoss, Joe and Adam come riding up.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 5 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Glad you enjoyed the article, pagesvoice. The parks is a beautiful and somewhat wild place - we loved it and would go back again.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      mperrottet - When reading this, your descriptions and enthusiasm inspired me to put this on my lists of place I want to visit. I found this very informative. Wonderful descriptions and photos too.

    • mperrottet profile image
      Author

      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Thanks, shiningirisheyes - It's a beautiful place and well worth the visit. Thanks for stopping by and for the nice comment!

    • profile image

      ElleBee 4 years ago

      This looks like a beautiful place! I wish I'd heard of it while I was still living out West! Might have to follow in your footsteps, and spend a lot of my year on the road.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      ElleBee, the park really has its own special beauty. I love the time that my husband and I spend on the road - especially the cross country trips. We're planning another one for 2014. Hope you get to do the same - it's so much fun. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      My family visited South Dakota back in the 1950s and I had a great aunt and uncle who had a large farm in North Dakota in the early 1900s. Have written hubs about both. Truly enjoyed seeing the Roosevelt National Park via your hub...something I would like seeing in person someday. Loved watching your video of the wild horses! Up, useful, beautiful and interesting votes. Tweeting!

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      You would really enjoy the park - especially the horses. Hope you get there sometime. Thanks so much for stopping by and voting, and especially for sharing - greatly appreciated!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      I visited the Black Hills and the Badlands several years ago and they are definitely worth seeing. This hub is full of great information and fantastic photos/video. Everyone should visit this park in South Dakota and see all of these amazing sights at least once.

      Voted up, and BI!

    • mperrottet profile image
      Author

      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Au fait - I'm glad you got to see this park. This part of the country really has it's own special beauty. Thanks so much for the kind feedback and the votes.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Margaret, I love the sheer natural beauty with the animals roaming free is a beautiful sight. voted up and beautiful. shared as well.

    • Tom Schumacher profile image

      Tom Schumacher 4 years ago from Huntington Beach, CA

      Thanks for sharing. I never knew about Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. I would love to visit sometime and witness bison roaming the land. They are amazing creatures.

    • mperrottet profile image
      Author

      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Tom - I hope you get to this park some day - it's a remarkable place. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment - I really appreciate it.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 3 years ago from Brazil

      I had never heard of this park. I think Theodore Roosevelt was such a wonderful charismatic man. If you have the opportunity to read his book about traveling down the tributaries to the Amazon, it is fascinating.

      I have never seen wild bison it must be an amazing sensation to see something that man nearly wiped out.

      Thank you for sharing your adventure with us.

    • mperrottet profile image
      Author

      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Blond Logic - One of the reasons that we were anxious to see the park was that my husband is a huge fan of Theodore Roosevelt. He was a fascinating character, and did so much for this country. I'll have to read the book that you're referring to - I believe my husband has it. Thanks so much for reading this, and for taking the time to comment.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Came back to this hub and enjoyed it just as much a 2nd time. Watched your video again also. What a thrill to be able to experience this first hand! Will share this hub and also pin it. Obviously you have some great memories! Thanks for sharing them with us.

    • mperrottet profile image
      Author

      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Thanks so much for re-visiting this, Peggy. I do have such wonderful memories of this place, and would love to visit it again sometime.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      I have always liked reading about Teddy Roosevelt, such a fascinating man. I did not know there was a national park named after him. This is a wonderful hub with great info, beautiful photos and the video is great. We have wild horses here in Nevada and often go out driving with a picnic basket handy, full of sandwiched, so we can stop and watch the horses -- such beautiful animals. Thanks for sharing this info and the photos. UP,U,A,B,I

    • mperrottet profile image
      Author

      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Phyllis - My husband is a big fan of Teddy Roosevelt, which is one of the reasons we were anxious to see this park. That's great that you have wild horses near where you live. They're so beautiful. Thanks so much for stopping by, sharing and voting - I really appreciate it.

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