The hunt for  Spring

Winter seems to never end!  Where, oh where is spring green?! When it arrives, it will look like this. Tempting, isn’t it! 

Here’s how to go looking for it.spring green

The calendar marks the evening of March 19, 2020, as the start of spring. That means the 20th is the first full day. 

But it sure does not look like it.  This is the earliest spring equinox since sometime in the 1800’s.  So here in the Northern Plains, actual conditions do not mirror the calendar or the track of the sun across the equinox.

Any day now, you can go out and look for spring green. Or you can wait a few days. Then, head to either units of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Medora or near Watford City.  

Give it 10 days. The first week in April will be a good time to look for green.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Any other year, we’d say to first check in to the visitor center of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. 

However, because of the corona-virus national shutdown, the visitor centers at the North and South units are closed for now.

While they are closed, you can consult the maps and announcements on the outside bulletin boards.  There you will see any notices that are posted, maps and good information for your hunt for spring. When they reopen, the rangers there can help you find just what you are looking for — even pointing out on maps the best places to see color, especially green. 

First Signs of Spring Green

Buds of Spring! Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota April 2019

The first sign of spring is the buds.  Look closely as they begin to emerge. You probably will not find any now in March, as spring starts, but by April 1, you should see buds.  

Red and Green. Spring! Theodore Roosevelt Nation Park, North Dakota April 2019 Identify plants here: http://bit.ly/2Jbdjfq

 

Where’s the Wildlife? 

Each spring, our number one goal is to look for babies.

If that’s your goal, too, bring binoculars and a telephoto lens so you don’t have to get too close to the newborns. 

The store in Medora called “Chasing Horses” does a fantastic job of keeping track of newborns. In fact, they can be your go-to place to start. They can give you directions to good places to hike in the south unit. Have you thought of taking advantage of a tour guide from Chasing Horses?

New Life! A Foal Among the First Band We Spotted! Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota April 2019

Wild Horses, Not Far Into Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota

 

 

Grazing!

Soon after you enter the park, you may encounter wildlife.  Bison are often near the entrance to the North Unit. And at the South Unit, bands of horses (with foals), can be spotted just beyond the Interstate 94 overpass.  
 
 
Bison Strolls Along the Road. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota. April 2019

Early spring, the grass along the side of the road greens up quickly. That gives you a good chance to photograph them.

 

Bison Everywhere!

The farther you enter either unit of the park, the more likely you will spot herds of bison. The huge creatures share the road because that’s where the grass greens up first. 
 
Word of caution: make sure if you see a cow and calf, that you never get between them, or cause the mother to feel threatened.  She could react violently to protect her calf.
 
If you wait until April, you can expect an occasional beautiful, warm spring day when no one is in a big hurry. Join that lazy pace and you’ll spot bison and horses in the south unit. In the north unit, there are bison, big horn sheep and long horn steers enjoying spring green.
 
This video is a sample of what we saw when things began to green up:
 
 
 

Green! Spring at Last in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota Identify plants here: http://bit.ly/2Jbdjfq

Green Plants at Last! Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota April 2019 Identify plants here: http://bit.ly/2Jbdjfq

 

 

 

We recommend, in the south unit –Jones Creek Trail

Last spring, we picked Jones Creek Trail to explore for spring green.  You will do well to try it also. Just use the trail head as a starting point, but you don’t need to stay exactly on the trail.  It was a bit later in the year.  April.  And it was just the right time to see new crocuses.

We prefer to hike across country, from point to point as we go.   If you’re in shape and you keep an eye on your starting point, looking back frequently, you’ll have a rewarding stroll.

Red and Green. Spring! Theodore Roosevelt Nation Park, North Dakota April 2019 Identify plants here: http://bit.ly/2Jbdjfq

Prickly Pear Greening Up. It's Spring! Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota April 2019

Prickly Pear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Phlox in Spring in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North DakotaIdentify park plants here:http://bit.ly/2Jbdjfq

Wild Phlox

 

We hiked to high point off of Jones Creek trail, and we saw this! A cow who appeared to be in a moment of birthing.  Notice her raised tail.

Bison Mom On Vigile. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

 

Bison Calf Rouses From Sleep. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota April 2019

Bison Calf Wakes Up From Nap, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota April 2019

 

Bison Calf!
 

Sure enough, off to the side, one of the first bison calves of spring.

 

 

We stayed there at that last high spot for half an hour or so, eating our meager lunch and watching the mom and calf.  She grazed leisurely, and eventually, with baby next to her, made their way west.   Later we saw a herd of bison in that direction. Sure enough, that was where she was headed.  And in that herd were at least two more new calves! 

Calf and Mom. Bison of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

 

Bison Calf Not Far From Mom, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

 

Bison Calf and Mom, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Mom and Baby Bison. Theodore Roosevelt National Park. April 2019

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

View From Afar. Bison and Calf in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota April 2019

 

New Calf and Mom. Bison in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota April 2019

Bison and Calf Stroll Away. April 2019 in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
Bison Mom Protecting Her New Calf, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota. spiral 2019
 
 
Bison Herd with New Calves. April 2019 Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Bison Herd with New Calves. April 2019 Theodore Roosevelt National Park

 

Curious Prairie Dogs

Our hike back to the trail head took us through a lively prairie dog town.  The little critters were busy munching grass, just like the bison and horses we saw.  They were a bit more curious, though, ever popping up and down out of their dens.

Curious Prairie Dog in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

What's Going On? Prairie Dogs in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

 

Feral Horses Graze Near the Scenic Loop Drive in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Feral Horses Graze Near the Scenic Loop Drive in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

 

And That’s Not All!

We began to pack our vehicle at the trail head, and took time to relax and re-hydrate.  As we did, off in the distance we saw more wild life.  And lots of it!  

Horses again!   Out came our cameras once more.  

Then we carefully picked our spots for viewing, photographing, and recording.   The two of us spread out. We’ve learned that just because we think wildlife is one place, it doesn’t mean there can’t be more in an adjacent area. We double our chances for a unique photo by splitting up. 

Mother's Love? Wild Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Wild Colt in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Look Alike Nuzzle! Feral Horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Wild Colt Sees From Afar, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Than We Thought!

We viewed at least two bands of horses, or perhaps it was one band, separated wide apart. We counted a minimum of seventeen horses.  They moved in different directions, and we moved too, to keep our distance.  We were rewarded with many photo opportunities!   

Wild Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Wild Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Stallion Approaches Mare, Feral Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Stallion Approaches Mare, Feral Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mighty Wild Stallion of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Mighty Wild Stallion of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

 

Glowing in the Golden Hour

As the sun lower in the sky, the shadows grew long and the spring green landscape took on a golden glow.  The Golden Hour!   We left the horses as they still grazed peacefully, and made our way out of the park.   The wildlife we saw didn’t end!  Our day was a total success, and one of the most prolific we’d experienced for viewing wild life in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

 

Bison Graze Along the Scenic Loop in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

American Bison Graze Along the Scenic Loop in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Yearling Bison Grazing in the Golden Hour at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Yearling Bison Grazing in the Golden Hour at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bison Graze in the Golden Hour in the North Dakota Badlands

Bison Graze in the Golden Hour in the North Dakota Badlands

 

 

Porcupine Shuffles Away in the Golden Hour at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Porcupine Shuffles Away in the Golden Hour at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Turkeys Bid Goodnight to the Badlands Prairie Dogs

Turkeys Bid Goodnight to the Badlands Prairie Dogs

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sunset On the Turkeys and Prairie Dogs in North Dakota

 

What’s ahead?

Who knows what to expect this spring.  If weather conditions are anywhere within the spread of “normal” conditions, you can head out to look for spring.  Just watch the weather trends.  Checking a snapshot of weather at 6 or 10 pm one evening is not enough.  Watch the trends for 5 to 10 days out.  See how it changes, and you will be prepared to hunt for spring.

Sunset over I-94 in the Badlands of North Dakota

Sun Setting Over I-94 in the Badlands of North Dakota

 

 
It’s not too early to at least plan your next adventure in the Badlands.
 
 
You’ll find hundreds of beautiful North Dakota Badlands photographs here:  You’ll Love the Badlands and Grasslands!
 
We’d love to learn about your adventures  in these areas.   Email us here:   beautifulbadlandsnd@gmail.com
 
 
 

Beautiful Badlands Ad Mykuhls

%d bloggers like this: