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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt National Park - North Dakota

April 2013 - Weekend, 11:15 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.

One could easily spend an entire day in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We spent about six hours visiting the park, including the drive between the North and South units. We were not rushed, although this would have easily turned into several more hours, if we had walked more of the trails in the park. My husband was just healing from a twisted ankle a few weeks before our trip, so we did not do as much trail walking as we normally would.

The cost to enter the park is $10 per vehicle, and the pass is good for seven days. I have uploaded a photo of the park brochure and map, although you can probably find better information on the website link above, if you want to do any research before you go. We did not look up anything before our visit, and I do not  think that affected our visit at all.

North Unit overlook
We visited the North Unit first, since we were on our way south from Williston. The main Visitor's Center is located in the South Unit, which is the area of the park visited most. There is a pullout viewing point on Highway 85, just north of the North Unit park entrance.

We liked the North Unit best, so I am glad that our route brought us to that portion first!

North Unit
The North Unit office has limited open times before summer. It was staffed the day that we visited, and the ranger was very helpful. There were a few taxidermy stuffed animals on display in the center, and there was a sit down video, which we did not watch. There were also a couple of souvenir type items for purchase. Restrooms with flush toilets, and a drinking fountain with the capability to fill water bottles, were located in the foyer.

There was not much traffic during our visit. The wildlife that we saw included bison, longhorn steers, a rattlesnake, deer--one of them closeup, and pheasants. We were disappointed that we did not see any Bighorn sheep or elk. The first wildlife that we saw were longhorn steers and bison. This review will have so many photos, that I am having a difficult time choosing the right ones to post!

The next two photos show and explain how the "slumps" of landscape are formed. Remember that photos can be enlarged, if you click on them.

This next photo is from the stop called Cannonball Concretions.

We saw a rattlesnake on the road next. It almost blends right in with the pavement!

A couple more photos before we turned around to head back toward the entrance.
Overlooking the Little Missouri River at the end of the road

These two photos are from the River Bend Overlook stop.

Three last photos from the North Unit, just because I could not stop taking pictures! Our day started out overcast, and the sun was out by the time we left the North Unit. We stopped at the picnic area for lunch before heading to the South Unit.

Painted Canyon Visitor's Center
We were disappointed that the Painted Canyon location was not open at the time of our visit. I had read that it is open on the weekends in April; however, the gate was closed when we stopped. There was a vehicle parked at the gate, although we did not see anyone around. After we drove off, I wondered if we would have been able to walk around the gate to take an overlook photo of the South Unit. This next photo was taken from the highway after we found out the location was closed.
South Unit
We did not get as many photos in the South Unit. Not only because we liked the North Unit better, but also because we had not paid attention to our camera battery, and it was going dead. Fortunately, I realized that the GPS car power cord had the same connection as the camera, so we were able to plug it in to get some photos. It did not recharge very quickly though, and the camera would not work to take photos while it was plugged in. If we had realized this sooner, we would have had the camera plugged in during the one-hour drive between the two units.

The Visitor's Center in the South Unit is open daily year around. It is much larger than the one in the North Unit, with a substantial gift shop. There is also a museum, and a park video, which again, we did not watch. The facilities at the entrance were similar to the North Unit, with restrooms and a drinking fountain.

We followed the 36-mile loop through the park around to the right, and the wildlife we saw included bison, prairie dogs, deer, and wild horses.

2nd Prairie Dog Town
There are several Prairie Dog Towns listed on the map. We thought the best viewing was at the second and last towns. In fact, at the last Prairie Dog Town, near Peaceful Valley, we saw dogs running across the road and along the sides of the road. The two photos here are from the second and last towns. We took photos at the first town too; however, the dogs in that area seemed to blend in with the landscape more.
Last Prairie Dog Town

We saw many deer laying in the distance beyond the prairie dog in the last prairie town, although they are not very visible in the photo.

Here are a few photos near the start of the loop, before we arrived at Buck Hill. Wild horses are visible in the first photo.
Wild horses

Buck Hill is the highest elevation in the park, and it was SUPER windy when we were there! I told my husband that I felt like I was about to be blown over the side. We could see a large cave opening in the landscape across, which is barely visible in the photo on the left.
Buck Hill - cave
Buck Hill toward the parking lot

One more stop for us, and more buffalo! Most of the buffalo that we saw in the South Unit were near the start of this trip, and in the same area at the end.

In the campground

Now that I have finished this blog post, maybe I will start singing a different song in my head other than, Home on the Range! I wish everyone an enjoyable visit at the park, and I hope you have enjoyed this blog post!