History and Exercise
Based on reader responses to attractions included on Beautiful Badlands ND, visitors in 2020 liked fun, easy and historic healthy Badlands attractions.
People like to get out and stretch their legs while touching base with historic points of interest. Some of those include the old entrance to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and the 7th Cavalry’s unfortunate snow camp. Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch, and two forts on the Missouri River also provide historic healthy Badlands attractions.
#14 Two Forts: Fort Buford and Fort Union
Why: It is historically important because this is where Sitting Bull surrendered when he returned from Canada. Fort Bufford was established the year after the Civil War ended. It marks a strategic location for a nearly-forgotten fort, an outpost of “galvanized Union soldiers” (Confederate soldiers who were captured and then turned Union.) Buffalo soldiers also were dispatched here — and the reputation was what you might think, very harsh conditions.
Where: Just off of Highway 180 about a half hour west of Williston. It sits on the confluence of two major rivers, the Yellowstone and the Missouri. West of Williston and Watford City.
Tip: Make it a 3-for-1 stop when you visit during paddlefish season and watch anglers bring in prehistoric fish. Visit the Confluence Interpretive Center and Fort Buford, all connected by a walking trail. If Coronavirus rules are still enforced, the Confluence Center may be closed.
Why: A privately owned commercial establishment founded to engage in business with the Northern Plains Tribes Assiniboine, Plains Cree, Blackfeet, Plains Chippewa, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara.
Hosted hosted well-known visitors during the fur trade period. George Catlin, Prince Maximilian of Wied, Karl Bodmer, and John James Audubon.
Where: Located on North Dakota 1804, the park is 25 miles southwest of Williston, ND, and 24 miles northeast of Sidney, MT.
Tip: Time your visit to be there during the annual Rendezvous — (assuming it will be held in 2021 and that Corona Virus rules will be eased.)
#11 Elkhorn Ranch
The northern of the two ranches owned by Theodore Roosevelt. It includes a walking trail with sign boards. There are no restrooms, visitor center or staff. The walking trail is well marked, and mowed in the summer. The ranch site itself has no buildings because when Roosevelt moved out, neighboring ranchers dismantled his buildings for the building material to use on their own ranches.
Why: This was his healing place after his mother and wife died on the same day. Roosevelt sequestered himself here to regain his focus. He wrote, worked, hunted and rebuilt his character from the Badlands foundation. It’s what propelled him to be a president.
Where: I-94 Exit 10, Camels Hump Exit, then north about 30 miles. It’s all gravel with few markers. So, get a map from the National Park Visitor Center. The drive is as much a part of the experience as is the time at the ranch site.
Tip: Take with you Roosevelt’s book Ranch Life and Hunting Trail and then read the chapters written from the front porch of the ranch house. You can see exactly what he is writing about in his descriptions of the view from the front porch. You can sit on the foundation stones to be within four or 5 feet of where Roosevelt sat when he wrote from his front porch.
#12 Custer’s Snow Camp
If it were not for a May/June snow storm, the 7th Cavalry would have just camped here and moved on. We visited the site and wrote about how the nasty wet, cold 3-day snowstorm proved too much for the soldiers on their way to Little Big Horn.
Why: Walk and hike the cow pasture of the camp site. Climb the hill overlooking the site. Get a sense of the travels of the 7th Cavalry’s trek across the region. Bridges were built, then dismantled to get wagons across, firewood scavenged to heat freezing soldiers. Take water and food. Make a day of it. Tailgate picnic. This is one of the best tours of the Badlands interior, south and looping back up to Sentinel Butte.
Where: Exit at Fryburg, Exit 36, then head straight south through “town” to the gravel road. Follow the signs. ND Tourism map is useful.
Tip: Take water and food. Make a day of it. Tailgate picnic. This is one of the best tours of the Badlands interior, south and looping back up to Sentinel Butte.
#11 Old Highway 85
Call it the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway, the Can Am Highway or Highway 85. It’s a major thoroughfare through the Badlands and connects I-94 with Watford City and Williston. As we wrote here, we love to hike the original roadbed. It’s just west of the current highway and it means a lot to us because it represents authentic America — hard work, stamina, resourcefulness.
Why: It’s a gentle hike from near Summit Campground, down the hill to the CCC Campground. It’s one of the easiest The roadbed carves into the hillside. The views reward camera buffs. It gives a sense of what travel was like in the Badlands 75 years ago. At the bottom is where the Roosevelt Bridge once stood and before that the ferry. Often you will see bighorn sheep on this trail.
Where: Between the northern Summit Campground access road and the break in the hill, on the west side of Highway 85, Forest Service Road 842.
#10 East Entrance to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Why: The original entrance when Highway 10 was a main highway through North Dakota, connecting Bismarck to Miles City, MT. As early as 1947, the Red Trail or Highway 10 looped past what was then called the Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park.
It’s one of the easiest historic healthy Badlands attractions. Enjoy an easy one-mile hike, out and back, through a prairie dog town across a flat valley.
Where: At the far southeastern point on the scenic drive in the National Park South Unit, park at the trailhead parking lot and head east on the marked trail.
Tip: During hiking season, pick a peak nearby and climb it to get a birds-eye view of the entire region. Very peaceful. When there’s enough snow, you can cross-country ski or snowshoe to the old entrance.
The Badlands in northwestern North Dakota hold a great interest with viewers and visitors who like historic healthy Badlands attractions. Top 5 items such as the Cartwright Tunnel, Fairview Liftbridge, Snowden Liftbridge and the next four popular items such as the Ice Caves grab most of the reaction. They form the first two sets of attractions we’ve written about.
Coming up: Six more popular historic healthy Badlands attractions for your 2021 Calendar.
A veterans cemetery, an abandoned town and the stars of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park are the next most popular attractions for 2021.
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Take a virtual tour.
Visit www.mykuhls.com to see galleries of images from the Badlands such as animals, rodeos and powwows.