Theodore Roosevelt National Park Overview

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park (courtesy, Natioanal Park Service)
Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Established: 1978
Acreage: 70,447
Average Yearly Visitors: 471,000
Location: Western North Dakota, 170 miles west of Bismarck

Contact Details
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Box 7
Medora, ND 58645-0007
South Unit Information: 701-623-4466
North Unit Information: 701-842-2333

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"I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota," Theodore Roosevelt once remarked when reflecting on the influences that affected him throughout his life. Here, too, many of Roosevelt's attitudes about and interest in nature and conservation were sharpened and refined.

Roosevelt first came to the badlands in September 1883. Before returning home to New York, he became interested in the cattle business and joined two other men as partners in the Maltese Cross Ranch. The next year he returned and established a second open-range ranch, the Elkhorn, as his own operation while continuing as a Maltese Cross partner. The Elkhorn became his principal residence, a place where he could lead the strenuous life that he loved. The prospect of big game hunting had initially brought Roosevelt to the West.

But when he arrived, the last large herds of bison were gone, having been decimated by hide hunters and disease. In other years when he managed to spend some time in North Dakota, he became more and more alarmed by the damage that was being done to the land and its wildlife. He witnessed the virtual destruction of some big game species. Overgrazing destroyed the grasslands and with them the habitats for small mammals and songbirds. Conservation increasingly became one of Roosevelt's major concerns. When he became President in 1901, Roosevelt pursued this interest in natural history by establishing the U.S. Forest Service and by signing the 1906 Antiquities Act under which he proclaimed 18 national monuments. He also obtained Congressional approval for the establishment of five national parks and 51 wildlife refuges and set aside land as national forests.

As a conservationist, Theodore Roosevelt was a major figure in American history. In the North Dakota badlands, where many of his personal concerns first gave rise to his later environmental efforts, Roosevelt is remembered with a national park that bears his name and honors the memory of this great conservationist.

The park is open year-round, but parts of the roads may be closed in winter. In summer the park's varied interpretive programs include campfire programs, talks, and guided walks. Get information at the visitor centers, park entrance stations, or from bulletin boards in the park. Hikers and horseback riders should inquire at the visitor center for information about the backcountry trails that cover the park.

Besides the North and South Units, the park also consists of the Elkhorn Ranch Site, the location of Roosevelt's second ranch.


Published: 30 Oct 2008 | Last Updated: 13 Sep 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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