North Dakota] What to do in Theodore Roosevelt National Park? - Part 1: South Unit

Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit

Roosevelt National Park (Theodore Roosevelt National ParkNamed after President Roosevelt Sr., the park is located in the sparsely populated state of North Dakota. Just by looking at the name, it's probably not easy for people to understand what this national park is all about. In fact, the reason why it is called Roosevelt National Park is to commemorate the old President Roosevelt, who came to North Dakota to live for a few years when he was young and opened a ranch here. He was deeply influenced by the experience of living in nature during this period of time, and later promoted the establishment of several national parks. The main geographic landscapes of Roosevelt National Park are Badlands and Grasslands, with the Badlands landscape having been previously recognized in theBadlands national parkAs described in the travelogue, it is a large raised rocky hill.

Roosevelt National Park is divided into three units: North unit, South unit, and Elkhorn ranch unit, which are connected by the Little Missouri River. south unit is the largest area of Roosevelt National Park, which is mainly along a circular scenic drive, and the entrance is right beside the town of Medora. There are stops at scenic spots and hiking trails along the way, and depending on one's situation, one can arrange to spend from two to three hours to a day. The total distance of this loop is 36 miles, if you drive slowly, you can finish it in 1.5 hours. However, some parts of the trail may be closed in winter, so it's better to check the park website to make sure it won't affect your trip. When we came here in 2021, the tail section was still under construction, so we could only drive to Badlands overlook and return along the same route.

Scenic drive along the way you can see a lot of bison, from time to time they will come out to block the road, need to pay attention to the car not too fast.

Visitor center

The first stop after entering the park is the Visitor Center, the only visitor center in Roosevelt National Park that is open in the winter, so make sure you stop in and learn about the history and geography of the park.

Maltese cross cabin

Maltese cross cabin is the old Roosevelt's cabin, located behind the visitor center, you can enter the house through the glass to see the interior decoration. Old Roosevelt came here in 1883, in fact, the old Roosevelt originally lived in New York, his family was rich, the reason why he suddenly came to this remote place to open a ranch is because his mother and his wife passed away in one day, suffered from a major change in his life, he entrusted his daughter to a friend or relative, and came here to heal his wounds, if it was not because of the North Dakota climate is too difficult, one year because of the natural disaster, he lost the cattle ranch, maybe he wouldn't have come back to New York later. If it wasn't for the tough climate in North Dakota and the loss of cattle on his ranch in a natural disaster one year, he probably wouldn't have come back to New York to enter politics. We can see that he lived a very simple life during this period, and he himself believes that this experience had a great impact on his life, and thus he has a deeper understanding of nature conservation.

Skyline vista

Skyline vista is a panoramic viewpoint of the grassland, from here we will start to see the badlands. There is a short and easy trail leading to the vista, it takes about 5 minutes to walk 0.2 mile.

Wind canyon

Wind canyon trail is a 0.4 mile loop trail, although the manual says it is moderately difficult, because the length is not long, it is a must walk trail. When you get to the high point, you will be standing on the cliff next to the Little Missouri River, and the view of the river is quite spectacular. the formation of Wind canyon is also very special, the soil here is very soft, so the canyon is blown by the wind, unlike other canyons that are caused by erosion of the river.

Boicourt trail

Boicourt trail is 0.3 mile long, featuring a closer distance to the Badlands, so it's worth getting off the train and taking a walk. However, if you don't have time, you can also stop at the Boicourt overlook 0.1 mile before. The trail is quite easy to walk, the rocky knolls look especially spectacular, and the light in the afternoon is very good.

Buck hill

Buck hill is a small hill, so it's a bit tough to climb up, but the 360 degree panoramic view is the most spectacular. buck hill is not on the scenic loop, you need to turn left into the spur, pay attention to the road signs.

Coal vein nature trail

Coal vein nature trail is a longer nature trail in the park, there are 0.8 mile, the scenery is general, mainly have some more in-depth introduction of the terrain and plants, it is recommended that if you do not have enough time to walk only a small section of the location of the sign No. 2 will be enough, the most important thing is to look at the terrain and landscape. There was a fire here that burned for 26 years, starting in 1951, and the coal vein underneath the large rock layer was slowly burned away in these 26 years, so the rock layer above it fell down. In fact, on the roads around here, we can see that the park still has signs saying that the fire may still be burning in some places, and that we don't need to notify the park when we see smoke. If we look closely here, we can see that some of the rock formations near the ground are the same color as the upper rock formations at the back of the park.

Old east entrance

This 0.8 mile trail passes through large meadows with many Prarie dogs along the way, and is destined for the former East Entrance Monument of Roosevelt National Park.

Badlands overlook

At the bottom of the current loop, Badlands overlook offers a panoramic view of the Badlands landscape, a perfect spot to watch the sunset.

Painted canyon

Painted canyon is part of the South area, but it is not on the ring road, you need to take the highway to the east to the next exit, Ranger said that it is suitable to come after sunrise, but in winter it is too early to open, but the ranger in the visitor center said that you can open the gate and walk into the canyon by yourself. In the morning, except for the bison by the side, there were no tourists at all. Along the Painted canyon overlook in the upper edge of the canyon, you can see the whole south area panoramic view, including the buck hill that we climbed on the scenic drive are in front of us.

There is also a Painted canyon trail below the overlook, it is 0.9 mile, we only walked a small part of it. This trail basically goes all the way down to the lower edge of the canyon, and you can see some hoodoo from below, but the first half of this trail is not very good, if you just want to see the scenery, the overlook is more spectacular.

Further reading

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