Theodore Roosevelt National Park celebrates its birthday
They’re called “America’s best idea” by Ken Burns, and they receive tens of millions of visitors from around the world every year. America’s National Parks are truly an American treasure. Today marks a special date for a National Park close to our hearts. Previously known as Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park, it was on this date in 1978 that President Jimmy Carter signed a law designating this western North Dakota treasure as a National Park.
Theodore Roosevelt made his first visit to the North Dakota badlands in 1883 on a hunting trip. He loved the area so much that he bought a ranch. He retreated to the ranch the following year to mourn the loss of both his mother and his wife. Later, Roosevelt started the Elkhorn Ranch, which today is one of the three distinct parts of the Park.
The park, located in the North Dakota badlands, is known for its unworldly landscape. As Roosevelt wrote about the area: “The Bad Lands grade all the way from those that are almost rolling in character to those that are so fantastically broken in form and so bizarre in color as to seem hardly properly to belong to this earth.”
The Park is also known as a good place to view wildlife. It’s home to many large mammals such as bison, feral horses and deer, and there are almost 200 species of birds – even a few types of snakes and lizards.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park includes three campsites, trails of varying difficulty, scenic drives, and over 70,000 acres of pure, unbridled natural North Dakota beauty, a place where Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy of conservation and preservation lives on. In Roosevelt’s words, “It is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird.”
It’s a belief vividly expressed by the Park – land he fell in love with and lived on – part of the National Park system he helped establish.
Dakota Datebook by Michael Cummings