First a happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. Thanks for all you do to support our families and keep them moving forward. Hope you have a pleasant day.
This week takes us back to the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota. This was my second visit to the Park this year, the first one was in January when there was more snow, very few visitors and the scenic road was closed at about the half way point. The April visit had a lot more action, I saw more wildlife (in total number) than on any previous visit and the scenic loop was open all the way to the end. There were more visitors but not many, the North Unit total visit count for April 2017 was just over 4500 visitors for the whole month! Hey people, you are missing a lot by passing up this beautiful gem of a National Park.
The history of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is quite interesting, at least to me! The Park is named after the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. Prior to becoming President, on one of his many adventures, he came to Dakota Territory and the Badlands in 1883 (North and South Dakota became states in 1889) to hunt bison. On his first trip, he got his bison and was then forever hooked on the “western” rugged lifestyle. He bought the Maltese Cross Ranch south of Medora and left it in the care of managers. In 1884, Roosevelt returned to the area to heal after the death of his wife and mother on the same day. It was then that he purchased a second ranch, the Elkhorn about 35 miles north of Medora. During his time in what is now North Dakota, Roosevelt wrote three books about the rugged and strenuous life in the outdoors. The winter of 1886-87 was one for the record books and many of his cattle starved to death. This event and his writings were said to influence his pursuit of conservation policies and actions during his presidency. He’s quoted as saying “I have always said I would not have been President had it not been for my experience in North Dakota.”
Moving on to the establishment of the Park. Shortly after Roosevelt’s death in 1919, there were proposals to establish a memorial in his honor. One of those proposals was to establish a park in the North Dakota Badlands. In 1924 and 1925, surveys were made of the area by locals, National Park officials and members of congress. It was put on the back burner due to opposition by local ranchers as the land was too valuable for grazing and the notion of government interference. Along comes a drought and the “Dirty Thirties” which led to over grazing and many homesteaders and ranchers were forced to sell their land for what they could get to the Federal Government. Also during this time the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was organized to provide jobs during a period of very high unemployment. The CCC began the construction of roads, trails, picnic areas, campgrounds and scenic overlooks in the Park area. After WWII broke out, all construction stopped as the men were needed for the war effort. In the early 40’s, the Park was designated the Theodore Roosevelt Wildlife Refuge and operated by the Fish and Wildlife Service. After a lot of lobbying, the land was transferred back to the National Park Service in 1948 and President Truman signed a bill that created the Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park, the only park ever designated as a Memorial Park. Finally, in 1978, President Carter changed the memorial park to its current status as a National Park. In other words, it was promoted!
Now on to some photos taken during my day in the Park. This photo shows the River Bend Overlook and shelter build by the CCC.
Here’s a couple more scenic views taken at the River Bend Overlook.
While at this overlook, I noticed some bison crossing the Little Missouri River so out came the telephoto lens. When I processed this photo, I noticed there were some deer and waterfowl in the photo too, all for the price of one!
Speaking of bison, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many bison on a visit to this Park, I estimate hundreds. Here are a few photos, the first from my vehicle with my iPhone as the old bulls slowly crossed the road.
This photo is of a cow and her very young calf. As I drove up, the mom quickly moved away while the bulls stood on guard. This photo was again taken with a telephoto lens.
Not only did I see a lot of bison, there were lots of deer, mule deer to be exact. Mule deer are named as such for their big, mule like ears. They are indigenous to the Western US and are believed to be a subspecies of the black tailed deer. Anyway, there were lots of them and it looked like they had a tough winter as they were rather thin and their coats were mangy looking but interesting animals none the less. In the top photo, note the deer on the left poking it’s head just above the brush. At first glance, it blends into the environment.
While touring the Park, I came upon a covey of sharp tailed grouse, the first I’ve ever seen in the Park. I’m not much of a wildlife photographer, not patient enough, but did enjoy photographing the animals in the Park.
The following are a few more scenes from my visit.
For hikers, there are a lot of great trails to explore the Park. While the weather wasn’t very good during my recent visit, I’d really like to try one of the trails that makes it’s way to the Little Missouri River.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this brief but spectacular visit to the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Regardless of the season, the photography opportunities are plentiful, there aren’t crowds, and the scenes are mind blowing. Again, worth a visit in my humble opinion.
Take care and travel safe.