There’s dramatic beauty in the untamed grandeur and vast silent expanses of the North Dakota Badlands that Theodore Roosevelt loved so much. Sweeping vistas of the Little Missouri River and brilliantly colored rock formations set against wide-open sparkling blue skies deliver a quintessential rugged badlands wilderness found nowhere else. The banded sandstone buttes glowing in the afternoon sun, craggy canyons, and meandering rivers of the area lifted Roosevelt’s spirits and nourished his soul after great personal tragedies. Many know little about this man who was the 26th President of the United States or his quest to conserve untouched wilderness of the United States. Yet, every day, visitors from around the world enjoy the nearly 230 million acres in the five national parks, 18 national monuments, 51 bird sanctuaries and four national game refuges he was responsible for preserving. Even fewer know that much of the motivation for the elite New Yorker to preserve scenic beauty, was Roosevelt’s time in North Dakota.
Arriving in the state to hunt bison, Theodore Roosevelt first stepped off the train in Dakota territory on September 8,1883. The skinny, young, bespectacled aristocrat had not spent much time outdoors, yet he grew to love North Dakota’s rugged wilderness. He established his own ranch and returned again and again to enjoy it. Roosevelt went on to write three books about his experiences and conservation ethic, the platform that ultimately got him elected President. Crusading relentlessly for preservation of the dramatic beauty in the United States, the National Park Service was finally created three years before Roosevelt passed away. North Dakota created Theodore Roosevelt National Park to celebrate his massive contributions to preserving irreplaceable American environments.
Unlike most National Parks contained in one location, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is divided into three parts: the North Unit, home of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit Scenic Byway, the South Unit with its own 36 mile scenic drive, and Elkhorn Ranch Unit.