Monday, November 7, 2016

On the Road Again (Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Medora in North Dakota

The next stop on our whirlwind trip was Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. 
Welcome sign at South Unit

Roosevelt spent several years in North Dakota as a young man, owning a ranch in the rugged Dakota Badlands. He returned to New York in 1887, but living there left on indelible mark on his life: "I have always said I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota."

For me, spending only a couple days in the (choose one, two or all) Peace Garden,  Flickertail, or Roughrider State, it was a memorable experience.  And yes, I would love to return and explore more of the Dakotas -- North and South.
Badlands marker 

My wife, Mary, and I entered the South Unit of the national park at Medora, taking a driving tour through the Badlands. Then we drove another 70 miles or so to see the North Unit, near Watford City. There is also Elkhorn Ranch Unit, the site of Roosevelt's second ranch, located midway between the North and South Units and inaccessible at times because of unpaved and steep roads (we didn't want to put our Prius through that).

The national park, established in 1947 to honor the great conservationist and 26th president, is fascinating -- the museum in the South Unit Visitor Center, prairie dog "towns," feral horses, bighorn sheep, bison, grasslands, and the colorful canyons. The Little Missouri River winds it way through the units. 

Roundup of  bison
One of the highlights was watching roundup of buffaloes at the North Unit, with park rangers using a helicopter to move the herd. A ranger told me that it's done every four years to trim the population, with the buffaloes later transported to Indian reservations as far away as Oklahoma.

Bighorn sheep
Another interesting sight was seeing bighorn sheep along the side of a hill that a helpful park ranger directed us to before we left the area. For the record, the rangers were talked to at the various national parks on this trip were courteous, friendly and most helpful in providing information and directions. 

Bucking bronco statue
As we left the South Unit on our way to the North Unit, we made a brief visit in the picturesque cowboy town of Medora, home of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame and the popular Medora Musical. The small town is the hub to many of the activities related to the national park as well as the proud cowboy and Indian heritage that runs so deep in this part of the country. 

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Next stop: Bismarck, North Dakota.

Until the next time.... 

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