The north and south units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park are separated by 70 miles. We've been staying in the North Unit, so today we made the long drive to the South Unit for an auto tour around the 36-mile scenic drive.
We slept until after 8:00 this morning, so that put us a little behind on our planned departure of 9:00. By the time Linda had her coffee and we were ready to go, it was about 10:30.
From the Juniper Campground in the North Unit, it's over a 70-mile drive to the Medora entrance of the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We would only be making that trip once.
Once we left the North Unit, we crossed a bridge over the Little Missouri River and took an immediate right, a quick detour to check out the CCC Campground which is part of the Little Missouri National Grassland. The campground has no hook-ups, but it has huge sites and is only $6 a night. It's a mile off the highway, and would be a good back-up plan in case the Juniper Campground in the national park is full.
The drive to I-94 was pretty boring with the rolling grasslands marred by oil wells and oil related businesses. Then we still had a few miles to go west on the interstate.
We made a quick stop at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center which is a combination visitor center/overlook/public rest area right off the interstate. There were some nice views out over the North Dakota Badlands.
Then we moved on down the road to the little tourist town of Medora and into the park at the Medora entrance. After watching the 17-minute orientation movie at the Visitors Center, we headed out on the two-lane, paved 36-mile Scenic Drive.
We stopped at one of the many Prairie Dog towns for a few minutes of amusement.
Five miles into the park, we drove through the Cottonwood Campground. The loop with back-in sites didn't have anything large enough for our rig. The loop with pull-throughs had larger sites, but only two or three that we would have been happy with. There is a place to take on water, but there is no dump station.
Moving on, we stopped to look at some of the wild horses. And then we stopped to spend more time with the Black-tailed Prairie Dogs.
This one had a mouthful of grass and appeared to be waiting to cross the road.
We stopped at a few of the various overlooks.
Sometimes we just stopped so I could do my breathing exercises.
At the Badlands Overlook, I started down a short trail to get photos, and a Bull Snake slithered across the path. It was beautiful, but I was a bit too startled to get a photo.
The stark and subtle colors of the badlands.
As we weaved our way through the park, we saw one Mule Deer, and more prairie dogs, but mostly we admired the landscape.
It wasn't until we nearly completed the loop that we encountered Bison.
And then they were with us for a few miles. It was slow going through the huge herd.
The one in the following video was right outside my window as it took exception to a young male coming up behind us.
That was a little unnerving as we had no place to go.
This RV had an escort down one of the hills.
It was stop and go for a little while.
I had plenty of time to take photos of the large animals.
Shortly after we left the Bison herd behind, we completed the loop.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is certainly beautiful, but it's not "take your breath away" stunning like parts of Bryce Canyon, Zion, Yosemite, Glacier, Grand Canyon, and Arches National Parks. And it doesn't have the variety of colors of Badlands National Park in South Dakota. I probably like the park more because of the historical aspect, and its relation with Teddy Roosevelt (I'm a big fan) who came here in 1883.
Teddy loved living what he called the "strenuous life" here, and he claimed that he probably wouldn't have been president if not for many of the lessons he learned in the badlands of North Dakota. Much of his interest in the conservation of the natural world was developed while ranching and hunting in this desolate area he loved.
The North Unit has a 14-mile paved scenic drive, but it is much less traveled than the South Unit. Both units have similar scenery. In fact, if we were staying in Medora, in my opinion, it certainly wouldn't be worth making the 150-mile round-trip just to visit the North Unit. But we like it for camping, and it has certainly worked out well for our needs this last week or so.
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