The North Dakota Badlands changed Theodore Roosevelt’s life, and his time there turned him into the avid conservationist he became. A trip through North and South Dakota would be insufficient without experiencing and understanding life in the area as hedid. It’s easy to see the solitude he found in the quiet masses of wildlife and the distinctive landscapes in a region rooted in celebrations of the former president.
Though it isn’t inhabited by the elusive large mammals such as bear and moose like some of the national parks to the west, North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park has enough roaming bison, white-tail and mule deer, and sociable prairie dogs to entertain you. Herds of feral horses that descended from runaway or abandoned domesticated animals add to the historical open range setting. South of the park in Rapid City, SD, you can see dozens of black bears and other animals in Bear Country that exists as a part safari/part zoo.
If you’re from the Midwest, or at least the central part of the U.S., you’ve seen plenty of rolling hills and fields of sunflowers and endless prairies. However, we weren’t expecting the likeness that far north in the country. The Badlands, which can be seen in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and South Dakota’s Badlands National Park, have their own individual characteristics as Roosevelt best described as “a desolate, grim beauty” and “so bizarre in color as to seem hardly properly to belong to this earth”.
Roosevelt is one of the four that sit atop Mount Rushmore in western South Dakota. The national memorial has exhibits and videos that detail the work of the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, who shaped the presidents into the rock face. In Theodore Roosevelt National Park, you can explore different exhibits from Roosevelt’s lifetime, including the Maltese Cross Cabin where he briefly lived.
Our boondocking stops and entire trip would have been different without Roosevelt’s efforts. He created the United States Forest Service where we camped 90% of the trip, and he also worked to protect as well as establish more national parks and monuments throughout the U.S., all of which we’re trying to visit in our lifetimes.
Read more about Roosevelt’s conservation efforts here: https://www.nps.gov/thro/learn/historyculture/theodore-roosevelt-and-conservation.htm