Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Thanks, Teddy

"I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota."  That's a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, who came to North Dakota one summer to hunt and who ended up creating the Maltese Cross ranch with a couple of partners and then later building anther residence, Elkhorn Ranch, on his own.  After watching the decline of the bison due to non-stop hunting and disease and seeing the grasslands disappear because of overgrazing by cattle, Teddy Roosevelt became concerned about what was happening in the Dakotas and areas of the west.  Once he was elected president he created several national parks, created the US Forest Service and signed the US Antiquities Act, leading the way in preserving a great part of our heritage; our own beautiful country.

Eleven years ago Denny and I explored some of North Dakota, stopping at both the north and south units of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  This time around we stayed in a campground in the town of Medora which is the gateway to the south unit of the park.  Our stay here has seen temperatures reaching 100+ degrees on several days so when the day started out overcast Denny and I jumped in the truck hoping the slightly cooler temperatures would allow the animals of the park to show themselves.  According to the brochures handed out at the ranger station we had the potential to see bison, wild mustangs, deer, elk, prairie dogs, pronghorn antelopes, big horned sheep, badgers and coyotes that live here, but we only managed to see the deer, bison, wild mustangs and prairie dogs. 

The south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park has a visitor center near the entrance with a small museum, gift shop and the original Maltese Cross Ranch house which has been moved to its current location.

Once you've checked out the museum, toured the cabin and watched the brief video in the visitor center and checked out the ruins of the meat packing plant on the grounds it's time to jump in your vehicle and start driving the 36 mile loop in the park.  There are a lot of short hiking trails near the overlooks as well as longer hikes throughout the park.  There are also riding trails and a stable that has guided horseback tours available if that's your inclination.  Just bring along a lot of water.  There are also primitive campgrounds available within the park; there are no hook ups there but there are restrooms.

But the main attraction here is miles and miles of scenery and rugged, rocky terrain softened by areas of cottonwoods along the Little Missouri River that winds throughout the park. 

What you won't find here are crowds--this is sort of off the beaten path although its entrance is just a couple of miles from an interstate exit.  So you can wander at your leisure, being enveloped in the scent of sagebrush and immersed in the sounds of silence.  Which we did until the thunderstorms rolled in and we rolled out.
Of course, I have to close with an "awwww" moment; this wild mustang foal who was all tuckered out from being so darned cute.


Linda Wildenstein said...

Your photos as always are so beautiful. But this landscape is magnificent.
The wild mustangs are so gorgeous. Did you know there is a herd very near Placitas? We went last week and saw some foals as well. You are living the life honey. Fantastic. xoxo the other

keyward9 said...

Those horses look pretty domesticated! Really like the last photo.

Anvilcloud said...

Still hot there, eh? We're getting our first reasonable day in a long time as it will only reach the low 80s today. There is a nice breeze as well.

Arkansas Patti said...

I said it before but you have really sold me on the area, but I will pick a cooler time to go. Love that you could get so close to the mustangs.
Thank goodness for Teddy.

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