The Little Missouri River runs low early September as the green trees begin to turn yellow and gold

After an unusually dry summer, the Little Missouri River was extremely low. Even before fall began the trees started to turn yellow and gold.

 

Fall Already?

Fall colors seemed to come on early in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota this year.  So we spent time looking for them in the North Unit of the park in early September.  

 

bison bull stares at us when we are hiking in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

This protective bull bison stared at us menacingly when we were hiking in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota.

bison, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, buffalo, fall

These bison kept an eye on us as we moved away from them, in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in early fall.

 

We Weren’t Alone

We seemed to have plenty of company as we hiked the sage covered prairies above the rugged badlands in the park.  A lone bison greeted us over the crest of a hill.  We stood still as he stared at us, for what seemed a long time.  Then, he ran to join the rest of his herd nearby.  More than one set of eyes tracked us as we moved away!

spotted fawn, mule deer, golden hour, fall colors, September, 2021, North Unit, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

The sunset golden hour made this little spotted mule deer fawn glow!  He calmly stood along the side of the road, and simply watched us drive past.

national park, wildlife, mule deer, golden hour, fall, fall foliage, badlands, North Unit, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

As the sun began to lower in the sky, the golden hour with its pinkish glow made this mule deer stand out against the fall grasses.

 

And the Wild Life was not so Wild

As the golden hour shrouded a warm light over the landscape, wildlife began to roam.  Bison slowly grazed, deer calmly foraged alongside the roadway, and turkeys meandered through the grasslands.  Time seemed to slow down, and we reveled at our surroundings. 

wild turkeys, North Unit, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, September, fall

A flock of six wild turkeys meandered across the grasslands in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, in early September.

 

Yellows and Golds and Blues

Our quest to spot seasonal color changes was successful.  Three days earlier we had observed no yellow or gold foliage.   On this trip, colors began to pop.  As the sun lowered near the end of daylight hours, a golden light was cast over the landscape.  Then, the color changed to blue.   Magnificent!  We left the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park as the sky darkened, content with our discoveries!

North Unit, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, fall colors, colored trees, gold leaves, striped buttes, North Dakota, badlands

Fall colors began to appear in early September in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota.

First fall colors on the Little Missouri River North Unit Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Dakota

First fall colors on the Little Missouri River North Unit Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Dakota.

blue hour on the buttes in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, contrasting the bright green trees which are just beginning to turn fall gold

When the sun set the color shifted to blue, and contrasted against bright green trees which were just beginning to turn fall yellow.

 

Last year’s fall colors were stunning!   See them here:  Soon You’ll Be Immersed in Brilliant Fall Colors!

There are three parts (units) of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Why?  Find out here:  What are the differences in the 3 units?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good North Dakota Badlands map?

The best map we’ve found is the U.S. Forest Service map.  You can pick up a copy at the Western Edge Bookstore in Medora, the Forest Service office at Watford City, or the Forest Service office in Bismarck.

Are there street signs in the Badlands?

Yes and no. Many of the roads are marked with traditionally green street sign posts.  Some are labeled with brown Forest Service Roads.  Others just have a brown sign with a number on them, which are Forest Service road numbers.  In many cases, maps and the occasionally trustworthy Google Maps service can tell  you where you are.

Is there cell phone service in the Badlands?

Usually from the tops of hills you can connect with a tower somewhere.  Anything lower than hill tops means you will likely not get cell phone service.

Follow us on Facebook. It’s a clearinghouse of Badlands-related events and news.  Click here.

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