Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Photo: Acroterion / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Twenty-eight miles. That would usually take you no longer than 28 minutes to drive. This is not a typical route, though. A winding river, a vast prairie, deep ravines, steep canyons, and colorful rocks guarantee a slow crawl. Nine pull-offs and numerous self-guided trails, such as the Achenbach Trail, ensure frequent stops. While the possibility of bison, golden eagle, or even rattlesnake sightings keep you constantly alert. So the drive to and from the Oxbow Overlook will be a very leisurely one.

The Oxbow Overlook is a remote part of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The national park is, indeed, named after the 26th president of the United States. It’s actually the only national park that was named after a person. Roosevelt began visiting the Badlands of North Dakota in 1883. He went hunting, fell in love with the landscape, invested in a ranch, and found solitude when his wife and mother died.

After he became the president in 1901, Roosevelt created the United States Forest Service, signed the Antiquities Act, established the first national monuments and wildlife refuges, and expanded the national park system. Following his death, this area became the Roosevelt Recreation Demonstration Area (1935), the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge (1946), Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park (1947), and, eventually, Theodore Roosevelt National Park (1978).

The national park now covers 100 square miles in western North Dakota. It’s divided into three separate geographical areas: the South Unit, the North Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. The South Unit has two visitor centers, Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin, and a 36-mile scenic drive. The Elkhorn Ranch Unit, where only the stone foundation of Roosevelt’s second ranch remains, is secluded with unpaved roads. While the North Unit, where you’re heading, is known for its quiet trails and exciting wildlife viewing. Take your time. There’s no need to rush out here.

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