To say that we were awe struck I think would be an understatement. When we passed through the grasslands and started to glimpse the views of color, shape and vastness in front of us each other word was “wow.” This area is way more than we had expected. Touted as one of the least visited national parks, you wouldn’t have known it for the full campsites and the car lined scenic drives.
This is the area that Theodore Roosevelt chose to come to heal and refresh himself after the death of his wife and mother (the same day, in the same house). It was designated as a National Park in 1947 to honor his legacy. In 1918 Theodore Roosevelt is quotes as saying, “I have always said I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.”
It is divided into three units; North, South and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. We visited both the north and south units, camping in the park at the Juniper and Cottonwood campgrounds respectively each right along the Little Missouri River. Each under the shade of Cottonwood trees and in view of Bison and Mule Deer directly from the campsite. We attended a couple of ranger programs (Wren got to be the helper with Ranger Jeff) and took the scenic view drives where we encountered many forms of wildlife including Bison, Mule Deer, Big Horn Sheep, Elk and Prairie Dogs.
On our second day in the North Unit we hiked to a Prairie Dog town – in two attempts . . . the first being we made it about a quarter mile with Ethan in the lead. He went over a rise and instantly backed up saying “Bison, Bison.” He and the Bison had surprised each other as the Bison lay directly across the path and only in view once we crested the rise. Ethan responded perfectly. We waited a short time to see if the Bison had interest in moving so we could continue our hike, but he didn’t so we returned to the car, drove the rest of the scenic drive and returned later to do our hike. He was still hanging close by, but was off the trail. Turns out later we spoke to a ranger and this old, male Bison is known for spotting people and laying down on the trial directly in their path . . . grumpy old man?
The prairie dogs were a hit and the hike was beautiful. We were only a few of a handful on the trails and it was beautiful land to explore. The colors are so different from home and so hard to describe and do justice.
Day three we drove the 68 miles to the South Unit and camped there. We drove its scenic drive spotting and Elk resting under a shade tree, wild horses, bison and many, many prairie dogs.
I would add Theodore Roosevelt NP as a not to miss. We had a great visit.