Travel by Any Means Necessary

Tag: Bison

Exploring Theodore Roosevelt National Park

CCC Pavilion in Theodore Roosevelt National ParkLocating in northwestern North Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the least visited National Parks in the United States. It averages about 600,000 visitors a year which might sound like a lot, but if you compare it to the 4 million that visit Yellowstone or Yosemite each year, 600,000 is not much at all. Coming from Glacier (which averages about 3 million visitors), the difference is very noticeable.

We started our exploration of Theodore Roosevelt in the North Unit which was closer to where we were staying. Of the two main units, the South Unit gets most of the traffic so when we arrived in the evening, we only saw a handful of other cars in the whole north unit. The north unit has a 14-mile one-way scenic drive that showcases the unique geological features of the park. There was plenty of parking at each of the overlooks and fresh air to breathe.

The South Unit of the park is larger than the north and is much busier. The South Unit has a 36 mile scenic loop drive that allows you to see the highlights of the park. Four miles of the road is closed indefinitely due to a landslide, although the area is open to hikers and bicyclists. Right where you have to turn around for the road closure there was one of the biggest prairie dog towns we saw on the trip.

Bison of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Wildlife is the highlight of a trip to Theodore Roosevelt. Muledeer, antelope, bighorn sheep, wild horses, bison, and prairie dogs can easily be seen in the park. When we were in the Black Hills we were SO excited to see a bison. By the end of our week in North Dakota, we were begging them to get out of the road so we could go home!

We had planned to do some hiking during our time at Theodore Roosevelt but with heat spell that was going on this summer, we determined it wouldn’t be safe. One day we stayed at the park until the sun went down and the temperature didn’t get below 90. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is on our list to return to outside of the summer or when Chris isn’t working so we would be able to hit the trails before the heat of the day.

If you are looking to visit a national park and get away from the crowds, definitely head to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, especially the North Unit. If I were to do this trip again, I would shorten the amount of time we had here, though. Unless you are doing a lot of hiking, you can see this whole park in two to three days.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I detail our experience at the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park Overview

Roosevelt National Park View

After an amazing few days in Glacier National Park, it was time for the longest drive of our three-week road trip. We had ten hours ahead of us on US 2 to get from western Montana to North Dakota. In planning this trip, I utilized RoadTrippers to find interesting places to stop along our way to break up the driving. Unfortunately, there wasn’t to be found on this route once we got away from Glacier. The drive was not nearly as bad as I was anticipating, although it was rather boring, audiobooks and podcasts made up for that.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is divided up into three distinct units: The North Unit (near Watford City), The South Unit (near Medora), and The Elkhorn Ranch unit which is between the two. We had planned to spend the first three nights at the Roosevelt Inn in Watford City and then move to a hotel near Medora. We loved the Roosevelt Inn so much that we canceled our other hotel and spent the whole time in Watford City. Chris was working from the hotel this week and our suite had a real kitchen (not the microwave and mini-fridge “kitchenette” that some of our other hotels had) and a separate bedroom so I was able to stay out of his way while he worked. The hotel had a good hot breakfast too. It was the perfect hotel for this part of the trip and we didn’t want to risk switching to a different one that wouldn’t work as well for us.

Now, Watford City is not a tourist hub like some of the other places we had stayed on this trip. There are a lot of oil fields in the area and most of the people at our hotel worked in the oil fields. When Chris went down for breakfast early, he got stared down by tough oil field workers. If this would bother you, this is not the place for you. But, if you are looking for clean, comfortable accommodations close to the north unit of the park, I cannot say enough good things about the Roosevelt Inn.

Rock Formation in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Unique rock formations in the north unit of the park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is named after the 26th President of the United States who is often referred to as the Conservationist President. While president, Roosevelt signed into law five National Parks and 18 National Monuments along with the first 51 bird reserves, four game preserves, and 150 National Forests, totaling 230 million acres.

The future present first came to North Dakota in 1883 to hunt bison. After his wife and mother died on the same day in 1884, Roosevelt returned to the badlands of North Dakota to heal. He was known to say that if it wasn’t for his time in North Dakota, he would never have been president. The area on the Little Missouri River was first set aside for preservation in 1935 before becoming a National Park in 1947.

Be sure to stop by next week when I detail our experiences in the North Unit of the park! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Yellowtone National Park Overview

Bison in Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park was the world’s first national park and was signed into law by Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 to protect the otherworldly landscape that is Yellowstone. Located in northwestern Wyoming and spanning into Idaho and southern Montana the park encompasses 3,400 square miles, and is larger than the state of Rhode Island. It is separated into distinct geological areas formed by geothermal features unlike anything I had ever seen. From the sprawling Yellowstone Lake to hot springs and geysers and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, you could spend weeks in the park and not see everything. Ever since we were driving around Yellowstone, I have been trying to figure out how I am going to recap this enormous park!

We only had three days to see as much of the park as we could. Of course, I wanted to hit the highlights: Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Surprisingly, in such a short time, we were able to see everything we had hoped to and more.

Old Faithful InnStaying in the park helped us tremendously. Driving in and out of the park can take away 2 or more hours of your time and when you are battling the record number of visitors that are coming through the gates in 2021, you need all the time you can get. While exploring the park, we heard many people say that you cannot get a room at the Yellowstone Lodges unless you book a year in advance. We managed to get our room at the Old Faithful Inn two weeks in advance. Just keep checking and it helps to subscribe to the Yellowstone National Park Lodges newsletter. They sent out a newsletter that they were opening up more rooms for the 2021 season and I was able to snatch one up before they were gone.

Staying at the Old Faithful Inn (above) was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. The Inn was built in 1904 from locally sourced materials including lodgepole pine. We stayed in one of the Old House rooms that has walls made of logs. Staying in that (admittedly small) room, you really got a sense of the history of the place. The GyPSy guide called the Old Faithful Inn the only building in the park that feels like it belongs. The Disney Nerd in me understands now where the idea for the Wilderness Lodge came from. Probably the best part of staying at the Inn is sitting out on the Mezzanine and watching Old Faithful erupt without having to be crowded around strangers and enjoying a drink.

Walkway at Mud Volcano

Walkway at Mud Volcano just before the rain

Another trick we learned when visiting the park in the summer was to leave in the middle of the day. The parking lots filled up and it got hot, so we headed to one of the towns outside the park for food and air conditioning. Then, we headed back into the park as the day guests were leaving for the day and we explored until the sun went down. We also got lucky with the weather. Our first day in the park was forecasted to thunderstorm most of the day and I think this kept some visitors out. We managed to time it so we were driving when the worst of the rain was coming down and we managed to see most of what we wanted to on that first day.

Now that I’ve given you a little overview and some tips for making the most of your time at Yellowstone, next week I will begin to recap the highlights of the park! Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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