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Experience Nature and History in North Dakota

by Eugenia Lazaris

Jun 13, 2024

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Wisconsinart | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / North America

North Dakota is full of wide-open spaces and abundant natural beauty, but it’s also home to plenty of great things for family travelers to see and do on their next vacation.


Families visiting the Peace Garden State shouldn’t miss Theodore Roosevelt National Park, located in the western region of North Dakota. Consisting of three separate areas of badlands, known as units, the park offers families a chance to experience both nature and history.


Roosevelt originally visited this land in 1883 to hunt bison, and today his historic cabin remains for visitors to enjoy, along with the bison that freely roam the park. Other wildlife can be seen throughout the park, as well, including pronghorns, bighorn sheep and wild horses, along with smaller native residents like prairie dogs who manage to forge an existence in North Dakota where the winters can be harsh and unforgiving.


There are fewer species of amphibians and reptiles that survive throughout the year in this climate compared to other regions in the country, but you can still manage to find a few of these hardy creatures, like tiger salamanders, Rocky Mountain toads and leopard frogs. You can also find snapping turtles, short-horned lizards and plenty of snakes if you are patient and have a watchful eye.


The park staff go to great lengths to protect and preserve the park’s native wildlife, and visitors are encouraged to speak with rangers when visiting to learn what you can do while visiting the park to help protect them. The Junior Ranger Program is a great way to get the kids involved in the park’s nature and wildlife ecosystems with an activity book that helps them identify native plants and animals.


With more than 70,000 acres to explore, visitors can also enjoy plenty of hiking or see the park’s three different areas from one of the beautiful scenic drives. Experience the Elkhorn Ranch Unit, the remote portion of the park where Roosevelt’s cabin is located, and the North Unit, which features camping and a 14-mile scenic drive through the rugged yet beautiful terrain. The South Unit is the most-visited portion of the park and features two visitor centers, hiking trails, a scenic drive route and plenty of places to view local wildlife in their natural habitat.


The park is the only national park named after a single person, making it a special tribute to its presidential namesake, but it also pays tribute to the Civilian Conservation Corps, which provided jobs and brought much-needed infrastructure and services to the area during the Great Depression. Today, sites like the Old East Entrance Station, within the South Unit, is a remnant of CCC’s work that park guests can still visit.


Whether looking for nature or history or a little bit of both, North Dakota has plenty to offer, and its Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a great way to get the family excited about both.


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