As one drives through the rugged terrain of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, you appreciate the beauty of the rugged cliffs and eerie colors formed by the diversity of minerals found in this land. Land that has remained untouched by plows or backhoes for centuries, only modified by the wind, the sun and torrential rains. Included within the park are a diversity of landscapes and geological formations, such as the Petrified Forest and Painted Canyon. The park consists of three separate units: the South unit (right off I-94), the North Unit and Elkhorn Ranch Unit. Each portion of the park offers an abundance of things to explore and opportunities for viewing wildlife. Since the South unit is easily accessible (Exit #24 and #27 from I-94) near Medora, ND and also has two Visitor’s Center to help plan your adventure within the Park, it has a tendency to be the more frequently visited area of the Park. The Visitor’s Center also has a really interesting museum about the man, the legends and some of the “naked truths” about this fascinating man who became our 26th President. I was saddened to learn that Roosevelt lost both his mother and his wife on the same day: Valentines Day, 1884. I can’t imagine the overwhelming grief. He did seek solace in the lands that he so loved in the hills of North Dakota.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, located on the western side of North Dakota, is a more low-key National Park and does not boast huge mountains or erupting geysers, but nevertheless it is an amazing landscape that has been called “The Badlands of the North”. Not only does it help to protect this unique area of land, it also pays homage to a man who played a huge role in the development of the National Park Service that we know today. It is fitting that North Dakota was chosen as the site for Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This land truly inspired him and helped him grow and toughen his resolve, both physically and mentally. He first came to North Dakota in 1883 to “bag a buffalo” and later become involved in ranching. Through a series of both bad luck and severe weather killing the majority of his livestock, he gave up the ranching life. However, the lessons he learned in the wilderness and with cattle ranching helped to strengthen his resolve and also helped to solidify his conservation ethic. He was quoted as saying: “I have always said I would not have been President had it not been for my experience in North Dakota.”
Theodore Roosevelt was sometimes referred to as the “conservation President”. He was responsible for establishing five National Parks and also created a system for the President to preserve lands and monuments by the creation of The Antiquities Act of 1906. Roosevelt signed the act into law, which gives the President of the United States the authority to, by presidential proclamation, create national monuments, protect public lands and to protect significant natural, cultural, or scientific features. Roosevelt’s first use of the Antiquities Act was to declare the unique feature of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming a National Monument. The Act has been used over a hundred times since its passage. Its use occasionally creates significant controversy, usually instigated by differences of opinion between Congress and the President.
Recently, President Obama used his Presidential power through The Antiquities Act to proclaim 87,000 acres in Maine as a National Monument in north-central Maine. The area has been christened as: the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. I believe that you can’t help but be inspired and uplifted viewing this video and thinking of the preservation of this beautiful tract of land in Maine.
So here’s to those that help to preserve the beauty of our America and hopefully we can all get out there and “Find your Park”. For more information on the Find Your Park program, check out the National Park Service website at: https://www.nps.gov/index.htm
Put your traveling shoes on. JES