Theodore Roosevelt National Park
View of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.jpg
View of the badlands and the Little Missouri River
Map showing the location of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Map showing the location of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Location in North Dakota
Map showing the location of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Map showing the location of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Location in the United States
LocationBillings and McKenzie counties, North Dakota, United States
Nearest cityMedora
Coordinates46°58′N 103°27′W / 46.967°N 103.450°W / 46.967; -103.450Coordinates: 46°58′N 103°27′W / 46.967°N 103.450°W / 46.967; -103.450
Area70,446 acres (285.08 km2)[1]
EstablishedNovember 10, 1978 (1978-November-10)
Visitors749,389 (in 2018)[2]
Governing bodyNational Park Service
WebsiteTheodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is an American national park of the badlands in western North Dakota comprising three geographically separated areas. Honoring U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, it is the only American national park named directly after a single person.

The park covers 70,446 acres (110.072 sq mi; 28,508 ha; 285.08 km2) of land in three sections: the North Unit, the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. The Little Missouri River flows through all three units of the park. The Maah Daah Hey Trail connects all three units. The park's larger South Unit lies alongside Interstate 94 near Medora, North Dakota. The smaller North Unit is situated about 80 mi (130 km) north of the South Unit, and Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch is located between the North and South units.

Both main units of the park have scenic drives, approximately 100 miles (160 km) of foot and horse trails, wildlife viewing, and back country hiking and camping. The park received 749,389 recreational visitors in 2018.[2]

History

Roosevelt connection

Rainbow over the badlands
Rainbow over the badlands
The badlands in winter
The badlands in winter

Roosevelt first came to the North Dakota badlands to hunt bison in September 1883. During that first short trip, he got his bison and fell in love with the rugged lifestyle and the "perfect freedom" of the West. He invested $14,000 in the Maltese Cross Ranch, which was already being managed by Sylvane Ferris and Bill Merrifield, seven miles south of Medora. That winter, Ferris and Merrifield built the Maltese Cross Cabin. After the death of both his wife and his mother on February 14, 1884, Roosevelt returned to his North Dakota ranch seeking solitude and time to heal. That summer, he started his second ranch, the Elkhorn Ranch, 35 miles north of Medora, which he hired two Maine woodsmen, Bill Sewall and Wilmot Dow, to operate. Roosevelt took great interest in his ranches and in hunting in the West, detailing his experiences in pieces published in eastern newspapers and magazines. He wrote three major works on his life in the West: Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman and The Wilderness Hunter. His adventures in "the strenuous life" outdoors and the loss of his cattle in the starvation winter in 1886–1887 were influential in his pursuit of conservation policies as President of the United States (1901–1909).

Park development

Following Roosevelt's death in 1919, the Little Missouri Badlands were explored to determine possible park sites. Civilian Conservation Corps camps were established in both of the future park units from 1934 to 1941, and they developed roads and other structures in use today. The area was designated the Roosevelt Recreation Demonstration Area in 1935. In 1946 it was transferred to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge. After a five-year campaign by North Dakota representative William Lemke, President Truman established the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park on April 25, 1947, the only National Memorial Park ever established; the North Unit was added by act of Congress in June, 1948. In 1978, in addition to boundary adjustments and the establishment of 29,920 acres (121.1 km2) of the Theodore Roosevelt Wilderness, the park's designation was changed to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Geography

The North Unit, the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit cover a total of 70,446 acres (110.072 sq mi; 28,508 ha; 285.08 km2).[3] The park's larger South Unit lies alongside Interstate 94 near Medora, North Dakota. The smaller North Unit is situated about 80 mi (130 km) north of the South Unit, on U.S. Route 85, just south of Watford City, North Dakota. Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch is located between the North and South units, approximately 20 mi (32 km) west of US 85 and Fairfield, North Dakota.

North Unit map
North Unit map
South Unit map
South Unit map

Climate

According to the Köppen climate classification system, Theodore Roosevelt National Park has a Cold semi-arid climate (BSk). According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the Plant Hardiness zone at the North Unit Visitor Center (2008 ft / 612 m) is 3b with an average annual extreme minimum temperature of -30.6 °F (-34.8 °C), and 4a with an average annual extreme minimum temperature of -29.3 °F (-34.1 °C) at the South Unit Visitor Center (2261 ft / 689 m).[4]

Climate data for North Unit Visitor Center, Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Elev: 2198 ft (670 m)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 25.2
(−3.8)
30.7
(−0.7)
41.9
(5.5)
57.9
(14.4)
68.4
(20.2)
77.1
(25.1)
85.2
(29.6)
85.0
(29.4)
73.3
(22.9)
58.1
(14.5)
40.3
(4.6)
27.9
(−2.3)
56.0
(13.3)
Daily mean °F (°C) 14.6
(−9.7)
19.8
(−6.8)
30.5
(−0.8)
43.9
(6.6)
54.6
(12.6)
63.6
(17.6)
70.4
(21.3)
69.5
(20.8)
58.3
(14.6)
44.7
(7.1)
29.7
(−1.3)
17.5
(−8.1)
43.2
(6.2)
Average low °F (°C) 4.0
(−15.6)
8.8
(−12.9)
19.0
(−7.2)
29.9
(−1.2)
40.8
(4.9)
50.1
(10.1)
55.6
(13.1)
54.0
(12.2)
43.2
(6.2)
31.3
(−0.4)
19.1
(−7.2)
7.1
(−13.8)
30.3
(−0.9)
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.39
(9.9)
0.30
(7.6)
0.63
(16)
1.03
(26)
2.17
(55)
3.04
(77)
2.37
(60)
1.68
(43)
1.40
(36)
1.37
(35)
0.48
(12)
0.41
(10)
15.27
(388)
Average relative humidity (%) 74.6 73.2 65.7 52.4 53.0 57.9 54.9 50.7 51.9 57.5 68.2 75.9 61.3
Average dew point °F (°C) 1.6
(−16.9)
5.4
(−14.8)
15.0
(−9.4)
25.7
(−3.5)
38.4
(3.6)
50.8
(10.4)
56.6
(13.7)
55.7
(13.2)
47.5
(8.6)
34.4
(1.3)
21.7
(−5.7)
7.7
(−13.5)
30.2
(−1.0)
Source: PRISM Climate Group[5]
Climate data for South Unit Visitor Center, Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Elev: 2382 ft (726 m)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 28.0
(−2.2)
32.7
(0.4)
43.3
(6.3)
57.5
(14.2)
68.0
(20.0)
77.4
(25.2)
85.5
(29.7)
85.7
(29.8)
73.8
(23.2)
58.8
(14.9)
41.8
(5.4)
30.1
(−1.1)
57.0
(13.9)
Daily mean °F (°C) 16.9
(−8.4)
21.2
(−6.0)
31.3
(−0.4)
43.6
(6.4)
54.4
(12.4)
63.7
(17.6)
70.5
(21.4)
69.8
(21.0)
58.4
(14.7)
45.0
(7.2)
30.7
(−0.7)
18.9
(−7.3)
43.8
(6.6)
Average low °F (°C) 5.8
(−14.6)
9.7
(−12.4)
19.3
(−7.1)
29.8
(−1.2)
40.7
(4.8)
50.1
(10.1)
55.6
(13.1)
53.9
(12.2)
43.0
(6.1)
31.2
(−0.4)
19.6
(−6.9)
7.7
(−13.5)
30.6
(−0.8)
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.31
(7.9)
0.31
(7.9)
0.67
(17)
1.15
(29)
2.15
(55)
2.81
(71)
2.27
(58)
1.34
(34)
1.32
(34)
1.14
(29)
0.50
(13)
0.31
(7.9)
14.28
(363)
Average relative humidity (%) 71.6 70.8 64.2 53.0 53.8 57.9 54.1 50.1 51.3 56.8 66.0 72.8 60.2
Average dew point °F (°C) 9.3
(−12.6)
13.2
(−10.4)
20.6
(−6.3)
27.6
(−2.4)
38.0
(3.3)
48.6
(9.2)
53.1
(11.7)
50.4
(10.2)
40.5
(4.7)
30.6
(−0.8)
20.7
(−6.3)
11.6
(−11.3)
30.4
(−0.9)
Source: PRISM Climate Group[5]

Ecology

Pronghorn
Pronghorn

According to the A. W. Kuchler U.S. Potential natural vegetation Types, Theodore Roosevelt National Park has two classifications; a Wheatgrass/Needlegrass (66) vegetation type with a North Mixed grass prairie (18) vegetation form, and a Northern Floodplain (98) vegetation type with a Floodplain Forests (24) vegetation form.[6]

The park is home to a wide variety of Great Plains wildlife, including bison, coyotes, cougars, mustang horses, badgers, elk, bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn, prairie dogs, and at least 186 species of birds including golden eagles, sharp-tailed grouse, and wild turkeys.

The entire park has been surrounded with a 7-foot tall (2.1 m) woven wire fence to keep bison and feral horses inside the park and commercial livestock out. Other animals are able to pass over, under, or through the fence in specific locations provided for that purpose.

The bison, elk, and bighorn sheep were reintroduced to the park. Park officials manage populations of bison, horses, and elk to maintain a balanced ecosystem.[7] Biologists monitor prairie dog towns, though the park only controls their population in instances where they pose a threat to buildings or human health.

Attractions

Cannonball concretions[8] in the North Unit
Cannonball concretions[8] in the North Unit
Bisons at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center
Bisons at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center
Feral horses
Feral horses

Both main units of the park have scenic drives, approximately 100 miles (160 km) of foot and horse trails, wildlife viewing, and opportunities for back country hiking and camping. There are three developed campgrounds: Juniper Campground in the North Unit, Cottonwood Campground in the South Unit, and the Roundup Group Horse Campground in the South Unit. Wildlife viewing is popular

The brown, dormant grass dominates from late summer through the winter, but explodes into green color in the early summer along with hundreds of species of flowering plants. During winter, snow covers the sharp terrain of the badlands and locks the park into what Theodore Roosevelt called "an abode of iron desolation."[9]

Theodore Roosevelt's Maltese Cross Cabin

A museum at the South Unit Visitor Center provides background on Roosevelt and his ranching days. Roosevelt's Maltese Cross Cabin is at the South Unit Visitor Center.

Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch is a separate, remote area of the park, 35 miles (56 km) north of Medora, accessible by gravel roads. The foundation of the ranch house and other shops buildings have been preserved, though the other portions of the cabin were removed and re-purposed after Roosevelt vacated the ranch. Threats to the Elkhorn Ranch site include oil development on adjacent lands, particularly visual intrusions and noise pollution from oil facilities and traffic.

The park units are mostly surrounded by Forest Service grasslands. The area has very dark night skies with excellent star gazing and occasional northern lights.

The town of Medora, at the entrance to the south unit, provides a western experience, with wooden planked sidewalks, old fashioned ice cream parlors, and buggy rides. There are several museums and the Burning Hills Amphitheather with nightly productions of the Medora Musical from early June to early September.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "Listing of acreage – December 31, 2011" (XLSX). Land Resource Division, National Park Service. Retrieved May 13, 2012. (National Park Service Acreage Reports)
  2. ^ a b "NPS Annual Recreation Visits Report". National Park Service. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  3. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park
  4. ^ "USDA Interactive Plant Hardiness Map". United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University". www.prism.oregonstate.edu. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  6. ^ "U.S. Potential Natural Vegetation, Original Kuchler Types, v2.0 (Spatially Adjusted to Correct Geometric Distortions)". Data Basin. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  7. ^ "Horse Background and History - Theodore Roosevelt National Park". U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved March 24, 2022.
  8. ^ "Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit Scenic Byway". Archived from the original on May 8, 2012. Retrieved May 13, 2012.
  9. ^ Roosevelt, Theodore (1888). Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail. New York: The Century Co. p. 73.