Finally! Today I opened Parade Magazine to a feature on our National Parks, and under the heading of “Best for Wildlife” found confirmation of what we already knew. A small area close to Medora, North Dakota was judged to be one of the premier places to watch American animals in the wild (also chosen was Everglades National Park in Florida).
Theodore Roosevelt National Park used to be a wildlife refuge. It was given that designation in the 1930s because as a young man, TR started a cattle ranch in the area (actually, two ranches). After his first wife died, he soaked up the atmosphere and hard living during the grief process, becoming healthier, savvier and more in tune with working Americans. It would preclude his rise to political office: he said he would not have become president if not for his time in the Dakota Badlands.
In the 1970s it became part of the National Park Service, very appropriately, since Theodore Roosevelt added 240 million acres of land for the preservation and enjoyment of future citizens.
Though I have photos of antelope, buffalo, and (feral) wild horses, there is much more to see. Prairie dogs scamper and jabber close to the park’s entrance. Big horn sheep climb the crags of the North Unit. Coyotes roam the flatlands among the sagebrush, and eagles and hawks fly above with other birdlife. When TR lived there, his second ranch was named the Elkhorn because he found two elk skulls with the antlers locked together, proof of a contest with no winner many years before. Beside the elk, whitetail deer and mule deer are prevalent.
You’d have to go to Yellowstone or Glacier to see grizzly bears and moose, but if you want to take an early morning drive among the bison, waiting in your car for a herd to cross the road and snapping closeups of the young and old alike, go to Medora. It’s a 70,000-acre wildlife watcher’s dream.