June 12, 2022
Temperature 76 Degrees, Mix of Sun and Clouds
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Southern Unit
Once our tour of the Visitor Center was over it was time to explore the Southern Unit of the Park.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park on average only has about 600,000 visitors annually making it one of the lease visited National Parks. This is no doubt due in part to its remote location in North Dakota. The Southern Unit Scenic Drive is the highlight of the Park as there are many scenic overlooks and
numerous opportunities to get out and stretch your legs. However, we quickly learned that
it is no longer a loop road but rather an out and back drive. A landslide in 2019 destroyed the last part of the road and it has still not been completely repaired.
As you begin your drive into the park you immediately notice one big difference between the Badlands here and in South Dakota. The Badlands here are alive with vegetation. I found the Badlands here a bit muted and not as harsh as those in South Dakota. Yet, each is beautiful in its own way.
Here is one to test your imagination.
Can you see the face in the rock on the hillside?
You’ll still find towering hills, but also
lush bottom land along the Little Missouri River. And yes, that speck down there is a tent. This is the location of Cottonwood Campground. The campground is about 5 miles inside the park, offers no services, with some sites available by reservation, the remainder are on a first come, first serve basis.
There are Bison in the park, currently about 500 to 600. I learned that about every 2 to 3 years they have a roundup and at that time they check the health of the herd and thin it down by moving some of the bison to other locations – perhaps a reservation, a local ranch or another park. The management of the herd, though, is not as organized as Custer State Park.
In terms of other wildlife which we observed.
This is one of the few national parks where you can observe free-roaming horses. They are descended from stock turned out by ranchers to live and breed. Once the park was fenced in there was a horse round up with the intent of removing all of them from the park. However, a few eluded capture. These horses continued to live free-range in the park. Though there were other efforts in the future to remove them, today they are allowed to live in the park as a historical demonstration herd. However, like the bison they are also managed to keep their numbers at a manageable size based on the natural resources available in the park.
The end of the road, time to turn back but first we stopped here.
What a view from the overlook.
The fact that people actually used to live here is hard to imagine. They must have come from sturdy stock than I am made of.
Remember I said in the beginning that there were a number of places along the route that you could get out and stretch your legs?
I decided to try the Wind Canyon Trail. It stated that it was an easy 15 minute (sure) walk of just about .4 of a mile. It started out easy enough but then came
the stairs if you could call them that! But the climb was well worth the effort for when you reached the top
the view of the Little Missouri River and surrounding area was spectacular! I’m so glad I made the effort to climb to the ridge line.
We absolutely enjoyed our drive through the southern unit. It was totally different than what we had witnessed in The Badlands National Park but it had a definite beauty all its own. If you are ever out this way, I encourage you to take a day and tour Teddy’s Park and his Visitor Center. You will not regret it.
Once out of the park we had observed this when we first arrived
and of course I had to find out what it was, and why it was there.
This is what I discovered
How about that, now we know how the town of Medora got its name. Now, about that chimney
This site once contained a packaging plant, a slaughterhouse, ice houses, outbuildings, a railroad spur track, and a corral. All, however, was destroyed by fire in 1907 leaving only the chimney to mark the location of a once prosperous business.
And that concludes our time in Medora. We left with so many wonderful memories, not the least of which was the Musical. Medora may be a bit off the beaten track and a little bit out of the way but it is definitely worth a visit.
Thanks again for spending some time with us. It’s always great to be able to share our story with family and friends. Comments? Feel free to share them with me. And always remember, cherish every moment of every day that God gives you and live those moments to the fullest.
Our continuing mission remains the same: to explore as many new states as possible, to seek out new acquaintances and make new friends, to boldly go where we have not been before.