"I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.”
-- Theodore Roosevelt
In September 1883, Theodore Roosevelt traveled from New York to the Dakota Territory. He planned to shoot a buffalo.
He discovered that most of the great bison herds were already gone—killed for their valuable hides. Roosevelt also saw the devastation caused by over-grazing, which destroyed wildlife habitats.
He purchased stakes in two cattle ranches on the Little Missouri River, and launched a lifelong conservation campaign that would eventually preserve more than 230 million acres of public land.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park was established in 1947 to commemorate the president’s dedication to preserving the country’s natural beauty. The park’s two units cover more than 70,000 acres and encompass his Elkhorn Ranch and the log cabin he built on Maltese Cross Ranch.
The Maltese Cross cabin contains period furnishings, including a hutch, rocking chair, and trunk that belonged to Roosevelt. A self-guided auto tour takes you around a scenic 36-mile loop. Drive out to Painted Canyon Visitor Center for a view of the North Dakota badlands. The North Unit also hosts a scenic driving tour and panoramic view from Oxbow Overlook.
More than 100 miles of trails wind through Theodore Roosevelt National Park. You’ll also find bison there.
NPCA at Work in the Parks
One of the biggest threats to Theodore Roosevelt National Park is the rapid rate of oil and gas development in western North Dakota; fracking wells can already be seen and heard from inside the park. There are currently more than 6,000 oil wells in the region, with up to 45,000 predicted in the next two decades. In April 2013, NPCA's Center for Park Research released National Parks and Hydraulic Fracturing, a report that explores the impacts of fracking on national parks and how to best safeguard the environment and public health; the report features Theodore Roosevelt National Park as one of its in-depth case studies. For more information, read our recent blog story.
View the Slideshow
Check out our slideshow with beautiful images from this park.
Air pollution is another serious threat to this park. The National Park Service has established the NPS air quality webcam network to show “live” digital images of more than a dozen parks. Click here to see current air conditions at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.