Visited the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota for a week. Teddy Roosevelt came to my attention in the Ken Burns National Park series and also the book The Big Burn. He was the first president to see the need for conservation and created the first national parks and national wildlife refuges. He came to North Dakota to heal after his first wife and his mother both died on the same day (of different causes). It was here that he saw the damage people were doing to the land and the wildlife.
Above, view of the North Unit of the park. You drive through grasslands to suddenly come over a hill and see this. This unit is less crowded than the South Unit, which can be seen and accessed from the I-94. The North Unit is below the town of Williston, North Dakota. The state is in the midst of an oil boom and it is very apparent in Williston. What was probably a quiet farming community is now overrun with Mack trucks carrying supplies and equipment. You either get sprayed with dust and dirt or water (depending on the weather) every time one passes you on the two-lane road to the park.
When I first drove into the North Unit campground, buffalo were walking through it. It was warm and humid, and I later saw them on a sandbar on the Little Missouri River.
I have avoided going to North and South Dakota because of their weather. My visit confirmed my fears. The first night I was there a ranger came by and said there was a severe thunderstorm warning with possible tornadoes. A woman died in a tornado in northeast Montana, but I just saw a severe thunderstorm. The following day it was freezing with some rain, but warm, humid weather returned the next day.
A thrasher, spotted towhee, and northern flicker after the rain. The flicker was taking a bath in some water in a small pothole.
The first red-headed woodpecker that I’ve seen.
The South Unit of the park has a lot of black tailed prairie dogs. I was surprised to read in the park newsletter that it is a misconception that they destroy the landscape. “Without the prairie dogs, the prairie would change dramatically”. They aerate and fertilize the land and keep plants under control; they are a source of food for a number of carnivores; and their burrows provide protection for a number of creatures. Prairie dogs were in the west before it was settled (before us in other words). Lewis and Clark took a pair back to Washington. Guess I’m going to have to rethink my attitude towards ground squirrels and gophers.
When I moved on to the South Unit campground I had internet access and was able to see all the severe weather alerts for thunderstorms, wind, and damaging hail. Fortunately I was spared the damaging hail. Each night there were severe storms though.
There are wild horses in the South Unit. The ones above were enjoying the sun after a rainy night. The white one kept bobbing his head up and down. I’ve tried to see wild horses elsewhere, but these are the first I’ve encountered. I’m sure the park knows how much tourists love seeing them.
The day I took the above picture, the sky was cloudless most of the day and there were no weather alerts that morning. At 6 or 7 pm clouds could be seen on the horizon. At around 10:30 pm lightening started, along with buckets of rain. Looked at the weather web site and at 10:30 pm a severe weather alert had been posted. The weather people must have a hard time, trying to protect people and at the same time not scare away tourists.