Theodore Roosevelt National Park is divided into two units protecting 70,446 acres of badlands and grasslands. The south unit is located 130 miles west of Bismarck, North Dakota. This photo shows the colorful badlands in the Painted Canyon.
The park of course was named in honor of our 26th President, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. He was perhaps the greatest single conservationist in the history of humankind. Roosevelt preserved more than 234 million acres of land, established 5 national parks, 18 national monuments, and 150 national forests in the United States. Roosevelt created the National Forest Service and urged Congress to pass the 1906 Antiquities Act, which grants the President the right to preserve land as a national monument without Congressional approval.
Roosevelt (1858-1919) served as President from 1901-1909. He was one of the four U.S. presidents immortalized on Mount Rushmore. Roosevelt strongly influenced the construction of the Panama Canal and built a powerful U.S. Navy, both of which helped establish the United States as a world power in the early 20th century. Roosevelt also engineered the peace treaty ending the Russo-Japanese War, for which he earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906, the first one awarded to an American.
Sixty million years ago streams carried eroded materials from the Rocky Mountains and deposited them in North and South Dakota, creating these beautiful badlands for us to enjoy on this sunny day. It was an extremely windy day, but we were mostly sheltered while hiking through this canyon.
One of the great experiences we’ve had while hiking our national parks is coming upon wildlife just doing their thing in the wild. A friend jokingly wondered what’s the big deal, given that we used to live across the street from dozens of bison at Big Bone Lick State Park. Of course the difference here is that this huge bison is not locked in a cage and hence could charge across the prairie and kill us if it wanted to.
We enjoyed our lunch watching the bison enjoy his lunch. Though he barely acknowledged us, he remained within our view during our entire lunch. When we got up to leave, he also left the area. It was like we all dined together.
Jones Creek was quite muddy and a striking orange color from the natural iron in the water.
Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin was his special hideaway where he could lead the “strenuous life” that he loved. It was considered a “mansion” in its day with wood floors and three separate rooms (kitchen, living room and bedroom). Roosevelt was a prolific writer and spent many hours in this cabin writing about his life in the badlands.
Roosevelt said, “I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.” He first came to the badlands in 1883, became interested in the cattle business, and partnered with two other men in the Maltese Cross Ranch. Big game hunting lured Roosevelt to the area, but when he arrived, Roosevelt was shocked that the large bison herds were gone, decimated by hunting and disease. He became alarmed at the damage being done to the land and wildlife, and this sparked his lifelong quest for conservation.