(Chuck) We left the Black Hills and traveled North to North Dakota. Our destination was Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the town of Medora. Our friends have told us of this area in the past and it sounded like a good area to visit. As it turned out, not only a good place, it is a must do.
TR National Park is actually two separate units that are connected by the Little Missouri River. This river accumulates a tremendous amount of silt as it passes through the badlands of Western North Dakota. It can only be described as Too thin to plow and Too thick to drink.
Teddy Roosevelt was one of the early residents of the area. He arrived for adventure and bison hunting in 1883. He learned to love the area and established a ranch to raise cattle. His association here helped him to establish a firm policy of conservation which to this day we are all the beneficiaries. When Roosevelt became president he established the US Forest Service, he proclaimed 18 national monuments, established five national parks and 51 wildlife refuges.
Medora was founded in 1883 by the French nobleman Marquis de Mores. He named the city after his wife Medora von Hoffman. He built a 26 room hunting lodge which is now a state historic site. He amassed thirteen sections of land for his ranch operations. The Marquis considered himself an entrepreneur of the highest magnitude and built a large packing plant to slaughter cattle and ship the meat East in refrigerated rail cars. All of his business interests in Medora seemed to fail in the span of three years and it is estimated he spent over a million dollars in his Dakota ventures. We toured the lodge and found it and the adjoining museum to be a informative addition to the history of the area.
Medora is host to a western style musical which is dedicated to the memory of the Roosevelt legacy. It is performed in a 2,900 seat amphitheater and boasts a 94 show season. Variations of this show has been run since 1958. We attended the musical and it was indeed a great experience. In conjunction to the performance, there is a Pitch Fork Fondue meal which features Rib Eye steaks on pitchforks cooked in oil. We opted for the second item on the menu which was an assortment of chicken, barbequed ribs and slices of roast Buffalo. We did enjoy the meal and the accompanying western music.
There is a great 36 mile Scenic Loop Drive in the South Unit. If you enjoy Buffalo, this is a great chance to enjoy them on their own terms. Also there is a large herd of wild horses and an abundance of prairie dogs.
The campground on the South Unit is a typical 1960’s camp area which is built for small rigs. They have abandoned any thought of trimming the brush back from the sites and driveways. Fortunately there are four sites for larger rigs near the entrance. We found them to be good accommodations for our stay. As usual we had a couple for neighbors which we shared traveling stories and talked about life on the road. We sat on chairs till long after dark.
Soon we moved to the North Unit for two more days. It is less popular as it is 15 miles from the closest town. A one way Scenic Drive of 14 miles takes you through the badlands and up to the plateau area. On the way there is a herd of 11 Longhorn Cattle and a modest herd of Buffalo. We were fortunate to view a herd of over 25 Mountain Sheep at the Oxbow Overlook at the end of the Drive. We had recently invested in a quality set of binoculars and it has paid off well. The campground on the North Unit is better maintained and will accommodate most all rigs. Both campgrounds are $5 with the Senior Pass which is a bargain.
We have hiked several trails on both Units and on this trail we seem to share with somebody with big feet. We did not encounter him on the trail which was a good thing.
We had a very good time at Theodore Roosevelt National Park and we will plan another visit on another year.