Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located in westcentral North Dakota. The park is separated into north and south units. The North Unit is near Watford City, ND and South Unit is near Medora, ND. The remote Elkhorn Ranch site is between the two units along the Little Missouri River.
The closest major airport is Bismark, North Dakota, there are smaller airports at Dickinson & Williston, ND.
Establishment the Theodore Roosevelt National Park
On 10 November 1978, Theodore Roosevelt National Park was given national park status when President Carter signed Public Law 95-625 that changed the memorial park to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This same law placed 29,920 acres of the park under the National Wilderness Preservation System.
Size and Visitation of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Total Acreage: 70,446.89
Total Federal: 69,702.12
Total Nonfederal: 744.77
Total Wilderness: 29,920
South Unit / Wilderness: 46,158.57 / 10,510
North Unit / Wilderness: 24,070.32 / 19,410
Elkhorn Ranch: 218.00
History of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
When Theodore Roosevelt stepped off the train in the Dakota Territory for the first time, he was in search of adventure. The date was 08 Sep 1883, and the town that slept at 2:00 am was Little Missouri, a shoddy collection of buildings on the west bank of the river. The 24-year-old Roosevelt was bursting with anticipation about shooting a bison. A feat the took him 10 days to accomplish. Before returning to New York, just two weeks after he arrived, he entered into a partnership to raise cattle on the Maltese Cross Ranch. The next year he returned to the badlands and started a second open-range ranch, the Elkhorn. Theodore Roosevelt returned again over the next few years to live the life of a cowboy, explore, invigorate his body and to have the Little Missouri Badlands renew his spirit. Theodore Roosevelt wrote: “I would not have been President, had it not been for my experience in North Dakota.”
All visitor centers, wayside exhibits, campground amphitheaters, Maltese Cross Cabin are accessible. Both campgrounds have accessible campsites. First portion of Little Mo Nature Trail is paved. Parking areas at each visitor center for buses and trailers. Pull-outs along park road accommodate longer vehicles.
Basic Visit Recommendations
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is noted for opportunities to see bison, elk, mule and white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs, coyote and other small mammals as well as a variety of birds including golden eagles. Wild (feral) horses can be seen in the South Unit and longhorn steers in the North Unit.
All roads in Theodore Roosevelt National Park are open to cyclists. The park roads follow the contours of the badlands allowing riders to enjoy the park close up. Off-road cycling is not allowed in the park. All bicycles must remain on paved or dirt roads.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park has campgrounds in the South Unit and North Unit.
Individual Entry (Bike, Foot) $ 5.00 (Seven Day Pass)
Private Non-commercial Vehicle $ 10.00 (Seven Day Pass)
Annual Pass (Good one year from date of purchase) $ 20.00
Food and Supplies
None available within the park; a variety of restaurants and grocery stores are available near the park or within a short drive.
There are many hikes in the South Unit and in the North Unit.
There is no lodging in the park.
Medora Visitor Center (South Unit)
Painted Canyon Visitor Center (South Unit)
North Unit Visitor Center
Weather of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Summers are warm with temperatures in the 80’s and 90’s with a few days into the 100’s. Evenings can be cool. Average maximum: July is 87.1° and August is 86.7°. Average minimum: July 54.5° and August is 52.4°. Annual precipitation is 15 inches. Winters are generally cold. Recommend layers of clothing, especially in spring and fall. Rain gear in spring. Hat for sun protection is needed in summer.
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