Theodore Roosevelt National Park
The park's 70,448 acres are divided into three units: South Unit, North Unit and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. The terrain of the park includes badlands, open prairie, hard wood draws. It is home to bison, prairie dogs and many other wildlife species. The Little Missouri River runs through the park.
"I would not have been President, had it not been for my experience in North Dakota."
If visiting multiple sites in one day, remember that the North Unit is in the Central Time Zone, while the South Unit follows Mountain Time.
Flora and fauna
An abundance of native grasses provide sustenance for larger grazing animals: bison, elk, pronghorn antelope, white-tailed and mule deer, bighorn sheep and feral horses.
Once land is grazed or disturbed, it becomes prime habitat for prairie dogs to build their towns. The park's prairie dog towns are a great place to find birds feeding on seeds, burrowing owls making their dens, and prairie rattlesnakes or bull snakes living in abandoned burrows. It is not uncommon to see a golden eagle flying overhead, or a porcupine ambling up a tree to snack on the tree bark.
Summers are warm with temperatures in the 80s and 90s (Fahrenheit). Evenings are often cool. Annual precipitation is 15 inches. Winters are cold with brief warming periods.
The Painted Canyon Visitor Center is located 7 miles east of Medora just off I-94 at exit 32. It is open seasonally, from May 1st to mid-November.
The North Unit entrance is located 16 miles south of Watford City along U.S. Highway 85. The distance between Medora at the South Unit and the North Unit is 70 miles via I-94 and U. S. Highway 85.
The Elkhorn Ranch Unit is only accessible via gravel roads and, from the east, a river ford. Check with a ranger at the North or South Unit for current conditions and specific directions.
Bus transportation via Rimrock Inc., Toll Free: 1-800-255-7655,  is available along I-94. The bus stops in Medora, three blocks from the park's South Unit entrance.
There is no public bus transportation along Highway 85 and to the North Unit.
Train service via Amtrak is available into Williston, North Dakota.
All permits are good for all units.
It was here in the North Dakota badlands in 1883 that Roosevelt first arrived to hunt bison. Before he left, he had acquired primary interests in the Maltese Cross or Chimney Butte Ranch. Roosevelt thrived on the vigorous outdoor lifestyle, and at the Maltese Cross, actively participated in the life of a working cowboy.
The Maltese Cross Ranch cabin was originally located about seven miles south of Medora in the wooded bottom-lands of the Little Missouri River. At Roosevelt's request ranch managers Sylvane Ferris and Bill Merrifield built a one and one-half story cabin complete with a shingle roof and cellar. Constructed of durable ponderosa pine logs that had been cut and floated down the Little Missouri River, the cabin was considered somewhat of a "mansion" in its day, with wooden floors and three separate rooms (kitchen, living room and Roosevelt's bedroom). The steeply pitched roof, an oddity on the northern plains, created an upstairs sleeping loft for the ranch hands.
A number of items in the cabin today belonged to Theodore Roosevelt. Those that did not are from the same time period and would be typical furnishings of the day.
During Roosevelt's presidency, the Maltese Cross cabin was exhibited in Portland, Oregon and St. Louis. It was then moved to the state capitol grounds in Bismarck. In 1959, the cabin was relocated to its present site and renovated. The most recent preservation work occurred in 2000. His second ranch, the Elkhorn, was located about 35 miles north of Medora.
In 1884 Roosevelt selected the location for a second ranch, naming it the Elkhorn. He purchased the rights to the site, located thirty-five miles north of Medora, from the previous occupant for $400.
Roosevelt's last known visit to the Elkhorn was in 1892. He sold the ranch and buildings to Sylvane Ferris in 1898. Gradually the buildings were stripped of their furnishings and, according to a local stockman, by 1901 "every scrap of the Elkhorn Ranch had disappeared with the exception of a couple of half rotted foundations."
In his writings Theodore Roosevelt often referred to the Elkhorn as his "home ranch". His vivid descriptions of it, and of ranch life, enable his readers to imagine how things must have been.
There is also the option to travel crosscountry off the trails. In order to camp overnight a free permit is required.
More than 40% of the park--close to 30,000 acres--are backcountry wilderness. Hikers and horseback parties who wish to camp overnight in the backcountry must register at either the South or North Unit visitor centers and obtain a free backcountry use permit. A free backcountry guide is also available. In addition to the established trail system, visitors have the opportunity to travel crosscountry in the park.
Backcountry campers should be aware that the water in the park is extremely dense with sediment, making it difficult to filter any of the water without the filter clogging. This issue is exacerbated after it rains and sediment washes down into the creeks, giving the water the clarity and appearance of coffee with heavy cream. Under most circumstances water is going to have to be carried in. There are a few naturally occurring springs in the park that bring clear water to the surface that are usually reliable until the end of the early summer, notably the Ekblom spring.