Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Immerse yourself in the captivating world of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, an protected area in North Dakota, the United States. With its rich biodiversity, mighty geography, and deep connection to the country’s history, this park promises an unforgettable experience. This guide will lead you through the untamed wonder that is Theodore Roosevelt National Park, highlighting its significance, beauty, and how you can make the most of your visit.

Introduction to Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

History and Designation

Named in honor of the 26th President of the United States, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park stands as a living tribute to the conservation legacy left by this renowned statesman and 26th President of the U.S. Its designation as a national park on November 10, 1978, ensured the preservation of this unique ecosystem for future generations, encompassing an area of 285 square kilometers.

Following Theodore Roosevelt’s passing in 1919, expeditions were conducted in the Little Missouri Badlands with the aim of identifying potential locations for park creation. During the period between 1934 and 1941, Civilian Conservation Corps camps were established in areas that would later become park units. During this time, roads and other structures were also built, which are still in use today, showcasing the conservation efforts undertaken. In 1935, the area was designated as the Roosevelt Recreation Demonstration Area and came under the supervision of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, known as the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge.

On April 25, 1947, President Truman established the Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park, becoming the first and only memorial national park in the country’s history. Later, in 1978, modifications were made to the park’s boundaries, including the incorporation of the 121.1 square kilometers of Theodore Roosevelt Wilderness. These changes led to the renaming of the area, becoming known as Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This designation reaffirmed the commitment to preserving the natural beauty and historical legacy of the park, granting it a special status as a national treasure for present and future generations.

Location and Accessibility

The park is situated in the western part of North Dakota at coordinates: 46°58′0″ N, 103°27′0″ W, and is divided into two units, the North Unit and the South Unit, offering a variety of features and experiences. Park facilities are open year-round, though some areas may be inaccessible during winter due to snow.

Park and Regional Climate

The climate in Theodore Roosevelt National Park can vary drastically with the seasons. Summers can be hot and dry, while winters can be extremely cold with heavy snowfall. The park region is characterized by temperatures typical of a cold semi-arid climate, classified as BSk according to the Köppen climate classification system. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, at the North Unit Visitor Center, located at an elevation of 612 meters, the plant hardiness zone is 3b, with an average annual minimum temperature of -34.8°C. At the South Unit Visitor Center, at an elevation of 689 meters, the hardiness zone is 4a, with an average annual extreme minimum temperature of -34.1°C.

These climatic conditions influence the adaptation of the park’s flora and fauna, which have developed strategies to survive and thrive in an environment with cold winters and extreme temperatures.

Geography and Geology

Notable Geographic Features

The park is filled with impressive geographic features, ranging from rolling hills and plateaus to colorful canyons and buttes. The Little Missouri River winds through the park, creating a picturesque landscape.

Rock Formations and Geomorphology

The park’s rock formations represent millions of years of geological history. Sediments of sandstone, shale, and lignite reveal the ancient ecosystem of the region, including the period when it was covered by an ancient inland sea.

Ecosystems and Biodiversity


The Theodore Roosevelt National Park hosts a wide variety of plants, from grasslands to lush aspen forests. Each season brings a display of vibrant colors that adorn the park.


Visitors can observe a variety of wildlife in the park, including bison, deer, coyotes, and over 186 species of birds. Nature walks provide opportunities to see these animals in their natural habitat.

Endemic and Threatened Species

The park is home to several endemic and threatened species, including the black-tailed prairie dog and the Wyoming toad, underscoring the importance of its conservation efforts.

Excursions and Outdoor Activities

The Theodore Roosevelt National Park offers viewpoints, 160 km of trails and horse tracks, wildlife observation areas, hiking, and camping. It houses a wide variety of fauna, including bison, wild horses, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, prairie dogs, and over 186 species of birds. The landscape changes with the seasons, displaying brown grass in winter and vibrant green in summer. The park honors Theodore Roosevelt’s connection to the badlands and features a museum and the Maltese Cross Cabin to learn about his conservation contributions.

Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch

Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch is situated in a remote area of the park, 55 km north of Medora, accessible via gravel roads. It’s important to check with park rangers about road conditions and access routes. While the ranch’s foundations and some commercial buildings are preserved, parts of the cabin were removed and relocated after Roosevelt left the ranch. Elkhorn Ranch faces threats such as nearby oil operations, which can generate visual pollution, odors from oil treatment, and traffic.

Horseback Riding

One of the most popular activities in Theodore Roosevelt National Park is horseback riding. With over 160 km of trails available, the park offers ample opportunities for horseback riding or hiking, providing a unique way to explore.

It’s important to note that there may be limited water and shade along the trails, so carrying appropriate supplies is recommended. Additionally, the park units are mostly surrounded by National Grasslands of the Forest Service, providing a stunning natural environment.

Hiking and Trekking Trails

With over 100 miles of trails, the park offers routes for all fitness levels. The trails will take you through meadows, forests, canyons, and grasslands, offering breathtaking views.


For a more immersive experience, visitors can stay at one of the various campgrounds within the park. Reservations are recommended during the peak season.

Photography and Wildlife Observation

With its stunning landscape and abundant wildlife, the park is a paradise for photographers and nature observers. Don’t forget your camera or binoculars to capture every moment.


The park offers especially dark night skies, making it an ideal spot for stargazing and nighttime activities. Occasionally, visitors may even be lucky enough to witness the beauty of the Northern Lights in this exceptional natural setting.

Cycling and Mountaineering

For the more adventurous, there are routes for mountain biking and options for mountaineering. These activities provide an exciting way to explore the park. Caution is advised as there are wild animals within the park, which is protected by a fence to prevent bison and wild horses from leaving. However, other animals may still enter and exit despite this protection.

Local Attractions and Accommodation

Nearby Points of Interest

In addition to the park, the area offers other local attractions, including the North Dakota Heritage Center and the historic town of Medora. Both provide a broader insight into the culture and history of the region.

Accommodation and Dining Options

While camping is a popular option, there are a variety of hotels and inns nearby for those who prefer more comfort. The region also offers a range of restaurants and cafes, many of which serve local dishes.

Visit Planning and Tips

Best Time to Visit

The park is open year-round, but the best time to visit is during spring and fall when the weather is milder and wildlife is more active.

Safety and Preparation Tips

It’s important to be prepared for any type of weather and consider personal safety, especially during outdoor activities. Bringing potable water, sunscreen, appropriate clothing, and a park map is recommended.

Visitor Resources

The park offers several resources for visitors, including visitor centers, detailed maps, trail guides, and environmental education programs.

Conservation and Park Management

Conservation Programs

The park carries out various conservation programs to protect its biodiversity and maintain ecosystem balance, including safeguarding endangered species and controlling invasive species.

Collaborations and Partnerships

The Theodore Roosevelt National Park collaborates with local and international conservation organizations to achieve their preservation and education goals.

Rules and Regulations

To ensure a safe and enjoyable visit for all, it’s important to know and respect the park’s rules and regulations. This includes adhering to rules about camping, pets, and wildlife observation.

Tribute to Theodore Roosevelt

Roosevelt’s Life in North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt arrived in North Dakota in 1883, and the stunning beauty of the area deeply impacted him, shaping his passion for conservation. You can learn more about his life and his love for nature through various exhibits and monuments throughout the park.

Roosevelt’s Conservation Influence

As president, Roosevelt left a conservation legacy that is still felt today. His role in shaping conservation policy in the United States is commemorated in this park, a living testament to his belief in preserving nature for future generations.

Photo Gallery