Monday, August 29, 2016

Theodore Roosevelt National Park- South Unit

August 18 - 20, 2016:

We pull out of the campground past a Bison wandering around at the entrance to our loop.  It is a rainy ride south on route 85 through the vast Little Missouri National Grasslands.  This is the largest grasslands area in the country at 1,028,784 acres.  It is a mix of national, state and privately owned land, much of it leased to cattle ranchers for grazing.  At the town of Belfield we take route 94 west to Medora, North Dakota.  The entrance to the southern unit of Thoedore Roosevelt National Park is right in town with the Cottonwood Campground 5 miles into the park.  Twinkles arrives well ahead of me and has a campsite saved, not great as the previous one, but very good.

It was a drab rainy drive

We then ride back into Medora to the park visitors center, take in the movie and exhibits and Roosevelt’s original Maltese Cross Ranch cabin.  We also  check out the ruins of the Meat Packing Plant of the Marquis de Mores.  The Marques de Mores was a wealthy french aristocrat who founded the town of Medora, had a huge cattle ranch, built several of the town structures, built a huge meat packing plant and a Chateau for himself and his family. 

Roosevelt through the years

The Marques de Mores was another character

Roosevelts Maltese Cross Cabin

Roosevelts rocking chair

Ruins of the DeMores Meat Packing Plant

The old steam boiler

The town of Medora is quite the success story mainly due to a rags to riches entrepreneur, Harold Schafer, who make his fortune with Glass Wax, Snowy Bleach and Mr Bubble bubble bath.  He invested much in the town of Medora and started the Medora Musical in the 1960’s which is the biggest tourist attraction in town.  His holdings in Medora eventually transcended into todays Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.  

It appears to me that the Foundation pretty much runs this town and that most of the merchants are donating partners.  Whatever, they are successful, people are flocking in to see the Musical, the Pitchfork BBQ, the Gospel Brunch, the Bully Pulpit Golf Course and soak in the Theodore Roosevelt legend.  Otherwise this most likely would be just another run down old town.

Massive old Cottonwood

Town Hall Theater where they put on a
daily Roosevelt performance

Medora street scene, still tastefully rustic, although most 
buildings are new or have old looking false fronts

The southern section of Theodore Roosevelt  National Park  doesn’t have as much wilderness as the northern section but It’s equally beautiful.  There is a 36 mile loop drive with many scenic viewpoints and trails.  There are several large prairie dog colonies, hundreds of bison and a herd of wild horses.  There is also a Painted Desert area and a Petrified Wood Forest area accessible through alternate park entrances. 

Painted Desert view

The clouds were spectacular along the loop drive

Great views were everywhere

Thought like I could reach up and touch the clouds

Bison rubbing against the tree

Every view seems better than the last

Bison crossing the road in front of us

The Little Missouri River

I went to the Little Missouri Saloon on Saturday evening where a country musician was playing to a mixed crowd of tourists and locals.  It was something for everyone with a poker game in a back room, Olympic games on one TV, Nascar on another TV and decent country music.

Cowboy Hats hanging from the ceiling and many dollar bills

I visited the Cowboy Hall of Fame and the the Billings County Courthouse  Museum.  The Cowboy Hall of Fame to my surprise also had excellent native Indian exhibits.

They believe this vest belonged to Chief Sitting Bull

Famous North Dakota Rodeo star exhibits

There are rows of championship saddles

Great old photos of legendary local characters

This is a "Winter Count" animal skin with a picture representing 
an important event for each year

Looks like a happy hour

Johnny Phill had an amazing life as a rodeo rider and actor.  In 
a rodeo accident, the horse fell on him, he was unconscious and
they thought he was dead.  He was taken to the morgue for storage
where hours latter he woke up and escaped.

I now know the meaning of a greasy Sack Ranch

Old wanted posters

We are now continuing south, next stop is Belle Fourche, South Dakota;
Twinkles and Slick

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