"I grow very fond of this place, and it certainly has a desolate, grim beauty of its own." With these words, Theodore Roosevelt described the unique beauty of the North Dakota Badlands.
On his numerous trips Roosevelt noticed how populations of large game were thinning out and how overgrazing depleted the environment and its wildlife. He responded by setting aside land for national wildlife preserves and becoming a strong advocate for environmental conservation.
To honor his efforts, 70,448 acres of the Badlands were reserved as a national park in 1947. For, it was here that Roosevelt formulated his stand on conservation, which would become his trademark.
The Park is a paradise for outdoor activities including biking (on all roads), bird watching (186 avian species have been detected here), fishing and canoeing in the Little Missouri River, and scenic drives (the Painted Canyon is must see). The Park consists of three sections: South Unit, Elkhorn Ranch, and North Unit.
There are numerous hiking trails in the North Unit. Little Mo is the smallest with a total of 1.1 miles; and the 16-mile Achenbach Trail is the longest. There's even more variety in the South Unit ? 18 trails, ranging from the 0.1- mile Buck Hill to the 15.3-mile Petrified Forest (East).
Maah Daah Hey Trail runs throughout the North Dakota Badlands and is used for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. For overnight treks, there are three campsites ? two on the South Unit and one on the North.
Since water sources in the backcountry are unfit for consumption, it is critical to bring one's own supply of drinking and cooking water when traveling in this area, and to be prepared for unpredictable weather. This is rugged country, not for the faint of heart. Proper precautions in food, drink and dress can mean the difference in survival ? or not.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, a diamond in the rough, is located in the western part of The Peace Garden State in the North Dakota Badlands.