WATFORD CITY Those who visit the Badlands regularly fittingly regard the region as a showpiece for North Dakota. Those who see the Badlands for the first time never forget the experience.
The unique formations of buttes and bluffs, the colors of juniper and sage, and the wildlife of the area makes a visit to the Badlands infinitely memorable. One of the best places to plunge into the splendor of the Badlands is the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It is located about 15 miles south of Watford City.
The North Unit is home to bison, mule deer, bighorn sheep, longhorn cattle, an occasional mountain lion and dozens of other birds and animals, all surrounded by geological formations that defy description.
A bison bull lounges in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Bison are a living reminder of the history of the region.
Recently the North Unit Scenic Drive was re-opened to the public after being closed for more than a year while repairs were being made. The slumping nature of the Badlands terrain caused considerable problems for crews repairing the road, necessitating a longer than expected delay to the completion of construction. Now though, if they wish to do so, visitors can tour the North Unit from the comfort of their vehicle.
The Scenic Drive begins at the Visitor's Center and ends at the Oxbow Overlook, taking approximately one hour to complete. The winding road takes the visitor along the lowlands of the Little Missouri River to the bluffs up above. Visitors can expect to see a variety of wildlife along the way, particularly during the morning and evening hours.
The largest and most visible of the North Unit's wildlife is the hardy bison. Bison are as at ease in the coldest day of winter as they are in the hottest day of summer. Brought back from the edge of extinction, they are a living symbol of the Old West. The carrying capacity of bison in the North Unit is 150 to 250 animals, meaning visitors have numerous opportunities to observe them.
Those who prefer to hike through the North Unit can take advantage of a number of trails, from shorter nature trails to lengthy treks in backcountry. Hikers may choose to overnight on some of the trails, but there are also ample trails for day treks that offer great views of the park's backcountry. Hikers are reminded to carry plenty of water with them and are encouraged to notify park rangers at the Visitor's Center of their intentions. A complete list of backcountry regulations is available on-line or at the Visitor's Center.
However a visitor chooses to see and enjoy the Badlands, the effort will be memorable. The scenic drive through the park will remain open as long as weather permits. In the event of heavy snows or icy conditions the roadway will be closed to vehicle traffic at approximately the half-way point.
Those who wish to visit Theodore Roosevelt North Unit from Nov. 10-12 may do so for free. National Parks do not charge an entrance fee during Veteran's Day Weekend. Those wishing more information on the park's North Unit, such as weather conditions and the status of the scenic drive, should call the park at 842-2333. Camping is allowed throughout the winter.