Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Badlands at Theodore Roosevelt N.P.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a United States National Park that is located in the North Dakota Badlands. The park is named for the 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, who was noted for his passionate devotion to the conservation of the nation's natural resources.


"I would not have been President, had it not been for my experience in North Dakota."

—Theodore Roosevelt

The park's 70,448 acres are divided into three units: South Unit, North Unit and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. The terrain of the park includes badlands, open prairie, hard wood draws. It is home to bison, prairie dogs and many other wildlife species. The Little Missouri River runs through the park.

If visiting multiple sites in one day, remember that the North Unit is in the Central Time Zone, while the South Unit follows Mountain Time.

Flora and fauna

An abundance of native grasses provide sustenance for larger grazing animals: bison, elk, pronghorn antelope, white-tailed and mule deer, bighorn sheep and feral horses.

Once land is grazed or disturbed, it becomes prime habitat for prairie dogs to build their towns. The park's prairie dog towns are a great place to find birds feeding on seeds, burrowing owls making their dens, and prairie rattlesnakes or bull snakes living in abandoned burrows. It is not uncommon to see a golden eagle flying overhead, or a porcupine ambling up a tree to snack on the tree bark.


Summers are warm with temperatures in the 80s and 90s (Fahrenheit). Evenings are often cool. Annual precipitation is 15 inches. Winters are cold with brief warming periods.

Get in

By car

The South Unit entrance and South Unit (Medora) Visitor Center are located in Medora, just off Interstate 94 (exits 23 & 27) and is 135 miles west of Bismarck, North Dakota.

The Painted Canyon Visitor Center is located 7 miles east of Medora just off I-94 at exit 32. It is open seasonally, from May 1st to mid-November.

The North Unit entrance is located 16 miles south of Watford City along U.S. Highway 85. The distance between Medora at the South Unit and the North Unit is 70 miles via I-94 and U. S. Highway 85.

The Elkhorn Ranch Unit is only accessible via gravel roads and, from the east, a river ford. Check with a ranger at the North or South Unit for current conditions and specific directions.

By plane

Air service is available into the western North Dakota towns of Bismarck, Dickinson and Williston.

By bus

Bus transportation via Rimrock Inc., Toll Free: 1-800-255-7655, is available along I-94. The bus stops in Medora, three blocks from the park's South Unit entrance.

There is no public bus transportation along Highway 85 and to the North Unit.

By train

Train service via Amtrak is available into Williston, North Dakota.


Entrance fees are good for seven days and allow entry into all units of the park:

An annual pass that grants unlimited entry to Theodore Roosevelt National Park for one year costs $40.

There are several passes that allow free entry for groups traveling together in a private vehicle or individuals on foot or on bike. These passes are valid at all national parks including Theodore Roosevelt National Park:

In 2016 the National Park Service will offer several days on which entry is free for all national parks: January 18 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), April 16-24 (National Park Week), August 25-28 (National Park Service's 100th birthday weekend), September 24 (National Public Lands Day), and November 11 (Veterans Day).

Get around

The North and South Units each have long scenic drives with numerous pulloffs and trailheads. As of 2012, though, the North Unit's road is closed six miles into the park due to damage, with no reopening date yet scheduled. Off the road, the options are hiking, biking, and horseback riding. There is no public transportation.



There is also the option to travel crosscountry off the trails. In order to camp overnight a free permit is required.


Books and small souvenirs are available at all three visitor centers.

Eat and Drink

There is no food available for purchase within the park boundaries, except for a few small vending machines at the North Unit and Painted Canyon visitor centers. South Unit visitors can hop over to Medora to stock up. Visitor centers have water fountains, and the Cottonwood and Juniper campgrounds have drinking water on tap. Roundup may have water, but it's not a year-round service - verify with rangers, especially in shoulder season (May and October).



The park has no lodging of its own. Camp, or sleep in a nearby town.



More than 40% of the park - close to 30,000 acres - is backcountry wilderness. Hikers and horseback parties who wish to camp overnight in the backcountry must register at either the South or North Unit visitor centers and obtain a free backcountry use permit. A free backcountry guide is also available. In addition to the established trail system, visitors have the opportunity to travel crosscountry in the park.

Stay safe

The Badlands are notorious for unpredictable and severe weather. Pack clothing for all conditions, you'll probably need it!

Wildlife in the park is dangerous, and should not be approached, but will not normally be a hazard unless provoked. Rattlesnakes are the exception.

Go next

If time permits, consider the long but beautiful 240-mile drive (310 from the North Unit) on Highway 85 to Rapid City. The heart of South Dakota's Badlands and Black Hills, it's a base for visiting several famous recreational areas including Badlands National Park and Mount Rushmore.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, August 08, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.