"I would not have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota," Theodore Roosevelt remarked when reflecting on the influences that shaped his life. He loved this "land of vast silent spaces, a place of grim beauty."
Young Teddy Roosevelt was born into a wealthy Manhattan family, but was a sickly, asthmatic child and his father got him interested in exercise and boxing and outdoor pursuits including hunting and backwoods hiking and canoeing. to overcome his weaknesses. And it worked, strengthening his body, but also had the fringe benefit of imbuing a passion for outdoors and for the environment and wildlife.
He idolized his father, TR Sr., and his father's death dealt him a tremendous blow. He was also tiring of the difficulty of hunting in the mountains and underbrush of Maine, so he headed out west to North Dakota to hunt bison and other big game on the broad, easily accessible open prairies, to "live the strenuous life" as he put it. He fell in love with he area and even went into partnership with two friends and started a cattle ranch, which he then left in their capable hands when he later returned to New York. He later returned and bought a second ranch for himself.
Back home, in 1884, unimaginable tragedy struck when both his wife and mother died in his house on the same day (of kidney disease and typhoid fever, respectively), and shortly thereafter, his political party faltered, so Teddy, in desolation at these losses, retreated to the solitude of his beloved Dakota Badlands.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park honors his time here, and also his environmental ethic gleaned and developed and solidified here. Upon his return, he found his beloved buffalo decimated, and the overgrazing of cattle had caused the destruction of the fragile Dakota grasslands. This decimated habitat vital to small mammals and songbirds. Later as president, he remedied these situations, creating the U. S. Forest Service, and utilizing Congress and also the Antiquities Act to declare 18 national monuments and the nation's first 51 wildlife refuges, 5 of our national parks, and 150 national forests protecting 150 million pristine acres.
Vistas in the North Dakota Badlands resemble those in the more famous South Dakota Badlands with the exception of more greenery here, thanks to 15 inches of annual moisture and the presence of the Little Missouri River.
My favorite wildlife are the abundant black-tailed prairie dogs...
...and the ubiquitous bison herds that were successfully re-introduced in 1956...
In 1985, elk were re-introduced, and the growth of their herds has been so successful that many Roosevelt Elk have been "transplanted" to other areas in the country. Wild horses also dominate the landscape here.
Below are photos of the Little Missouri River from up high atop Wind Canyon Overlook...
...was called the Rough Rider for leading the 1st Volunteer Cavalry up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. He was an African big-game hunter . . . an Amazon explorer . . . and a prolific chronicler of his adventures who authored 42 books, including his classic "The Wilderness Hunter," which is still in print. He was a founder of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and hunting's Boone and Crockett Club . . . governor of New York . . . father of the Panama Canal and "big stick" diplomacy . . . inspiration for the teddy bear. He was the first president to fly an airplane . . . to submerge in a submarine . . . to own a car . . . to have a home telephone . . . to travel outside the country while in office . . . to entertain an African American (Booker T. Washington) in the White House. And he was the winner of the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize for mediating the Russian-Japanese War.