Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located in north-central western North Dakota and it is one of the less visited National Parks, which is a shame because it’s quite spectacular, esp. in early summer when everything is green and temps are moderate. Photos taken from the level where you visit make it appears as mountains (or at least bluffs) but in fact it is a valley, like the Grand Canyon, but not so deep. The scenic drives and campgrounds are mostly in the valley so everything appears to be “up” even though driving in the flat plains surrounding the park you’d hardly even know it is there.
The park is divided into two main units, the southern one with the entrance at Medora, ND (which I previously posted) and the northern unit. The northern unit is a bit more rugged, but is smaller and has a shorter scenic drive. Its campground is almost identical to the one I stayed at (Cottonwood Campground) in the southern unit.
So here are just a few photos of some of what I saw:
This is just one of many scenes of unusual erosion features. The entire area was once a vast shallow sea deposited over millions of years. Clearly during that process different sediments washed into the sea thus produced different hardness of the resulting rocks. Some are quite soft and easily erode away leaving these unusual formations.
This is a fairly typical view from above the canyon. The scenic drive in the northern unit alternates between being down in the canyon and above it. From above you get the contrast of the flat grasslands with the valley as contrast.
I like images of roads, they give the sense of traveling somewhere. This is just a typical scene along the road down in the valley. Sometimes the buttes are more abrupt and dramatic than this but I liked the clouds. These shots were taken the day before a tornado hit a nearby town just south of this northern unit.
This is what makes all this happen, the Little Missouri River, which carved all these badlands. The same river flows through the southern unit and the National Grasslands in between. I met some people who’d been on the river and they said it was just barely deep enough to float their canoes.
And here’s a shot of the rim of the canyon just before it becomes treeless, flat grasslands typical of this part of North Dakota. If I’d taken a shot in the opposite direction all you would see is those grasslands and not believe anything interesting was in the vicinity.
So go visit this National Park, ideally in early season. Camp there, hike there, bicycle there, boat there, so you really get a sense of it. Sure, the scenic drives are nice but to drive thousands of miles and then spend only an hour in a car on the scenic drives misses the real essence, so get outside and enjoy these wonders.
National Parks are an incredible treasure and they belong to all of us. Get out and learn their wonders and feel the country the way it was before shopping malls and cornfields and freeways. And don’t let the Repugs sell all this to developers just for a few short-term bucks to the budget, once gone these treasures cannot be recovered.