You know those North Dakotans!  Every spring, they laugh at the past winter.  Or at least the wild horses and colts do. Wildlife is celebrating spring.

One thing for sure, it’s tough to stay indoors — especially after this last long cold winter. Record cold. Eight blizzards.  

But it’s not just us who are ready to romp our way into spring.  The wildlife is ready to play. You can see them when you explore the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in early spring.

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Animals love spring

Spring is a huge relief, not just for us, but for the wildlife in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It’s not yet green in the North Dakota Badlands — but it’s trying.

In late April, the park is on the verge of turning green — but it’s not until about May 1 that you’ll see green.

One a warm 78-degree day in April, we joined the animals — or actually, they joined us — to experience the freedom of spring.

We knew where we were headed, to the Jones Creek Trail. Since it is near the farthest corner of the park from the entrance, we hoped for a drive that would show us spring wildlife. We weren’t disappointed.


First, the horses

We barely got into the park when we were greeted on either side by some of the wild horses. Of course, we stopped to take a few photos and this shaky video that we shot while walking.

After that first group of horses, we were sure we’d see more. Later there would be even more fun encounters with the wild horses that seem to be some of the starts of the South Unit of the Park.

A Traffic Jam with Fine Young Bison

young bison

Soon, we got plenty of encounters with young bison. There were no big beasts here, but many young ones and a few yearlings grazing along the road.  The youngest bison we were to see that day was still ahead a couple of hours.  Several times on the way to our destination, we had to pause to let the stars of the park have their way with the road.  When they let us, we drove through the herd with a camera rolling.


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Once we got to Jones Creek trailhead

 — the east end — 

we picked a route that generally followed or paralleled the marked trail.




Crocus Paradisecrocus

It’s just beginning to green up. Folks in these parts know spring is on its way when they start seeing crocuses. We strolled past several of the largest beds we’d ever seen, some of the patches I figured were 40 feet by 70 feet.

Prairie Dogs

prairie dog

Prairie dogs along the Jones Creek Trail bark a warning as you approach. When you get near, they duck down in to their burrow, and another rodent further away picks up the warning barks.

The marked trail is easy. For the most part, it follows the low-lying area. It passes through a prairie dog town.  Like a wave, the rodents start baking as you approach.  As you get closer, they duck into their burrows, and the next wave beyond starts barking. Then, they duck down, and one the wave continues. 



Yellow Bison Calf

bison calf stands

A newborn bison calf stands on wobbly legs

Since the views down low are limited, we go for the high spots.  That’s more of an exercise, but more rewarding. At our endpoint, we sat, rested and munched on our backpack snack. 

bison buffalo calf and mother walk away

 That’s where we saw, down below us a site we would have missed if we had not taken the high road: a single bison cow. Not far from her, a yellow gold blotch in the grass.  Her newborn calf. 

As we watched the calf and mother got together again. She served her calf a snack and off they went to join a distant herd.


The second set of wild horses come to visit us

four wild horses


We headed back to the starting point, and there on a distant hill, another herd of horses, grazing toward us.

So, we waited, watched and relaxed.

They started out in a valley below us where we got to watch them scamper about. I didn’t know what to expect when I started recording them.

The yearling stallion was a clown.  We loved watching him, and as it turned out, he loved watching us, too.

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Later, they wandered up the same hill where I was. That’s when the yearling stallion in the herd had to check me out. I used my phone’s video function and that yearling had to sniff it to make sure it was good.

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The Moral of the Story

So, the moral of the story is, don’t wait till summer to visit the Park.  You feel like kicking up your heals when warm sunny weather hits? So does the wildlife in the Park. They’ll give you a show.

Don’t be afraid to wander off the path, take the high ground.  It’ll test your cardio system, but that’s only part of the reward. Start planning your exploration now.

We’d love to show you more.  You can browse the images on our photo gallery — and buy something for your mother on Mother’s Day.

Not only are there prints in all sizes, but also coffee cups, key chains, refrigerator magnets, mousepad and all kinds of gifts for Mom or anyone — even you!

Here’s an idea — we can personalize a public showing of the Beautiful Badlands.  Give us a shout and we’ll come to speak to your group.

ad speaker bureauThey’ll think you’re a rock star for giving them a chance to learn the tips and tricks to get the most out of the Beautiful Badlands.

Coming Up

Jones Creek Trail

It’s one of the easier trails to follow if you’re just getting warmed up for an adventure. We’ll tell you about it.

Tasty Tuesday Taffy

We also have been thrilled to find some new stores, new eateries and a new coffee shop in Medora.  You’ll see how the taffy shop has become one of the most popular stops in Medora.