Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park Things to Do

  • The Cabin: Hands slept upstairs, Teddy downstairs
    The Cabin: Hands slept upstairs, Teddy...
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  • Detail of the Front
    Detail of the Front
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  • Overview of the Cabin
    Overview of the Cabin
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Best Rated Things to Do in Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park

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    Enjoy the scenery and try some hiking

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Sep 6, 2008

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    The Little Missouri River has carved a deep path

    The dramatic scenery of Theodore Roosvelt NP owes its existance to the Little Missouri River, a shallow 900-km (560-mile) long waterway that rises in northeastern Wyoming and flows north through Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota (where it passes through the 'South Unit' and 'Elkhorn Lodge' portions of the park) before swinging east through the 'North Unit' of the park as it finally joins the mighty Missouri River. Explorers Lewis and Clark were not too impressed with it when they came across its 400-ft wide mouth in April, 1805 because it only had a depth of 2.5 feet - not much use for exploration!

    We contemplated taking the 22-km (14-mi) Scenic Drive in the North Unit that winds its way down into the river valley and back up the other side, before you have to turn around to head back (the Little Missouri appeared to be completely dry to us). It features several lookouts over the landscape as well as descriptions of some of the features you will see. This is also one way to access many of the hiking trails in the park - and they vary in length from 2-26 km (1-16 mi). We decided to possibly give it a go on our return trip but that turned out to be a wet day, so our explorations of Theodore Roosevelt NP will have to wait for our next trip from Regina!

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    SU: Visitors Center

    by Basaic Written Mar 11, 2010

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    Medora Visitors Center

    If you want to go through the main part of the South Unit, your first stop will be the Medora Visitors Center. Here you will pay your entrance fee and you can obtain brochures and other information to enhance your visit. There is also a gift shop on site for your souvenir needs. There is also a short film about the park and, the area and its history. The center is open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

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    SU: Maltese Cross Cabin

    by Basaic Updated Mar 11, 2010

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    Maltese Cross Cabin

    Theodore Roosevelt first came to the badlands area of North Dakota in 1883. He became interested in cattle ranching and joined two other men as partners in the Maltese Cross Ranch. The main house from this, Roosevelt’s first ranch, is located just behind the Medora Visitors Center where it was moved from its original location south of Medora. The cabin has a wood floor and multiple rooms including a loft where ranch nads slept. It is made of Ponderosa Pine logs. It is open for ranger-guided tours. Inquire inside the center.

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    SU: Prairie Dog Towns

    by Basaic Written Mar 11, 2010

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    Prairie Dogs are very social animals and live in “towns” consisting of a number of burrows. They have designated members that keep a watch out for danger and make a high pitched barking noise when danger is spotted. There are eight of these Prairie Dog Towns in the South Unit and two in the North Unit.

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    SU: American Bison

    by Basaic Written Mar 11, 2010

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    American Bison
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    The most impressive animal in the park is the huge bison. When I drove through here several bison were walking down the road. Make sure you yield to them, they could cause severe damage to your car not to mention you.

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    SU: Riverbank Woodlands

    by Basaic Written Mar 11, 2010

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    Riverbank Woodlands

    This is a part of the Little Missouri River Bottomlands. You can see Cottonwood trees lining the riverbanks where their roots can find abundant moisture. Dark green Juniper trees cling to the steep slopes behind the riverbed, and the dry river flats Dwarf Sagebrush dominates.

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    SU: Scoria Point

    by Basaic Written Mar 11, 2010

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    True scoria is volcanic in origin. This scoria is sand and clay that was baked into a kind of a natural brick by coal seams that caught fire. Over the years the softer earth has eroded away leaving bluffs capped with this harder material, making for a colorful view.

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    SU: Badlands

    by Basaic Written Mar 11, 2010

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    Badlands
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    Formation of the North Dakota Badlands began about 60 million years ago. Stream carried sediment and debris away from the recently formed Rocky Mountains, depositing them in this vast plain. During the warm and wet period that followed dense vegetation grew and fell into swampy areas. This was then buried by more layers of sediment. Much of this vegetation became lignite coal and some petrified. Much of this petrified material is visible in the badlands today. The dark blue-gray Bentonite can be traced to ash from ancient volcanic eruptions to the west. Streams and other factors eroded this terrain into the series of buttes, tablelands and valleys you see today. The badlands appears to be dead but actually hides a surprising variety of plant and animal life.

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    NU: Visitors Center

    by Basaic Written Mar 11, 2010

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    Visitors Center

    Your first stop at the North Unit will be the Visitors Center. Here you will pay your entrance fee if you did not pay at the entrance station, and you can obtain brochures and other information to enhance your visit. There is also a gift shop on site for your souvenir needs. There is also a short film about the park and the area and its history. The center is open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Winter hours vary.

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    NU: Longhorns

    by Basaic Updated Mar 11, 2010

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    Longhorn Grazing Area (just not today)

    In 1884, after most of the bison living in the badlands were killed off 4000 head of longhorn cattle were driven to the badlands from Texas. The tough cattle made the walk from Texas fine and several other cattle drives were undertaken. Unfortunately, by the early 1900s most of the longhorns were gone from the badlands because of overgrazing and the harsh winters, taking a toll on open range grazing. The longhorns were replaced by other more productive breeds. Today you may see a herd of 10 to 25 head of longhorns. These cattle were obtained from Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska and brought here to remind us of the longhorn’s legacy in the area.

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    NU: Slump Block Formations

    by Basaic Written Mar 11, 2010

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    Slump Block Formations

    This terrain consists of a series of slump blocks, that is huge sections of bluff that slid intact to the valley floor. This is not uncommon in the badlands where the steep cliffs cannot support the top-heavy formations. Continued erosion has moved the face of the parent bluff farther away from the slump blocks. Although the blocks tend to tilt you can use the colored bands of the bluffs and slump blocks to determine the original positions.

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    NU: Cannonball Concretions

    by Basaic Written Mar 11, 2010

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    Canonball Concretions

    These round rocks are called Cannonball Concretions and were formed when minerals in the groundwater cemented sand grains together. Erosion later exposed the round rocks as the surrounding soft sandstone washed away.

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    NU: Long X Cattle Trail

    by Basaic Written Mar 11, 2010

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    Long X Cattle Trail
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    This is a part of the Long X Cattle Trail. The trail started in Texas then went by the area where the current town of New England is, west of Dickinson and the Killdeer Mountains. It then crossed the Little Missouri River and led by the Squaw Creek Valley to the Long X Ranch 3 miles north of here.

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    NU: Caprocks

    by Basaic Written Mar 11, 2010

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    Caprock
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    Another interesting geological feature in the badlands is a phenomena called caprocks. Caprocks occur when the softer material around a hard flat rock formation erodes away leaving a rock that looks like a cap on top of the remaining soft formations.

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    NU: Bentonitic Clay

    by Basaic Written Mar 11, 2010

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    Bentonitic Clay
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    The blue-black gravelly soil you see here is Bentonitic Clay formed from the Bentonite from the ash of ancient volcanic eruptions. Bentonitic Clay flows when wet. These deposits can be traced for miles up and down the riverbed.

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