Our time was up in Bismarck, ND so we continued our trek west and stayed at our last stop in North Dakota. We pulled into the Red Trail Campground in Medora, ND because our plan was to stay a few days to explore the the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park was established in 1947 in honor of , duh, Theodore Roosevelt. It is a large park that contains 70,466.89 acres of North Dakotas badlands.
I have to admit the North Dakota Badlands were quite the visual surprise to me. I lived in South Dakota in the early 1970’s and never made the trip up to North Dakota because, well frankly, I never heard any good reason to do so. I mean all I ever heard was how flat and not very scenic it was.
Well the un-scenic part was correct for the eastern two thirds of the state. That is unless you like gently undulating hills covered in wheat, hay, soybean, sunflowers or corn. I mean after 50 or so miles of that I had seen enough and even worse was we were rolling along the interstate highway which in itself is boring to me..
Although North Dakota may be the least visited state in the USA Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park is not even in the ten least visited list of National Parks. It appears that many of the travelers who drive through North Dakota stop at the National Park for a visit. And why not! Made by ancient streams and rivers flowing from the (then new) Rocky Mountains depositing lodes of sediments which , over time, were slowly chiseled away at by the Little Missouri River and its tributaries creating this wondrous sight. The result became what we see today, the badlands.
Inside the park is a 36 mile driving loop which we drove slowly allowing us take in all the magnificence Mother Nature left behind after wind and water erosion had etched its artwork on nature's tapestry. There are plenty of interesting rock formations within the park and the 36 mile loop along with its assortment of short spur hikes allowed us to really get into the North Dakota Badlands groove.
In our three days there we were able to hike every hike we wanted to do. The short Wind Canyon Nature Trail is by far the most scenic as it puts the Missouri River watershed on display and offers a perfect spot to wait for that perfect sunset picture. We weren’t fortunate enough to capture a worthy photo but we certainly enjoyed the hike and views.
The hike to the petrified forest in the wilderness section of the park was also interesting as we encountered very large petrified stumps of what once was a thriving forest. The crystalline structures within the trees caught my eye as I could imagine the sap dripping at one time, but now has become frozen in time.
We had a blast hiking this unknown part of the world, at least to us, and are glad we made the effort to take our time to enjoy this part of North Dakota…
NOTE: We are now in Miles City Montana for one night then on to Billings Montana on Sunday.