Theodore Roosevelt in North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt's experiences in North Dakota were centered in the west, where he ranched and hunted over a period of several years. Yet his legacy can be seen throughout the state. Click the sites on the map below to learn more about TR's footprint in North Dakota.

North Dakota map with Theodore Roosevelt sites

TR Sculpture in Fargo Cornerstone of Fargo College Library Stump Lake National Wildlife Refuge Sullys Hill National Game Preserve Theodore Roosevelt International Highway (US 2) Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge Rough Rider Award Gallery, North Dakota State Capitol TR Statue in Mandan TR Statue in Minot Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Young TR Statue in Dickinson Dakota National Forest Theodore Roosevelt National Park Elkhorn Ranch


Young TR in buckskins

Theodore Roosevelt arrived in the badlands of North Dakota on September 8, 1883. He was 24 years old. He came to kill a buffalo, but he fell in love with the badlands of the Little Missouri River Valley. He impulsively invested in two ranches: the Maltese Cross seven miles south of the Northern Pacific railroad tracks, and the Elkhorn, 35 miles north.

Roosevelt was determined to get a taste of the American frontier before it was gone forever, to establish himself as a big game hunter, a rancher, and an authentic cowboy, and to overcome both his physical infirmities (principally asthma) and the grief he experienced when both his wife and mother died on Valentine's Day 1884. He threw himself into badlands life - stopping stampedes, participating in month-long roundups, arresting thieves, punching out a drunken gunslinger in a bar, and helping to organize the region's first stockmen's association. In Dakota Territory Roosevelt was transformed from a frail and somewhat snobbish New York "dude" into the more democratic exemplar of the strenuous life who became the 26th President of the United States.

Although he relinquished most of his ranch holdings after the disastrous winter of 1886-87, he continued to maintain some cattle interests in the badlands until he became the Vice President of the United States in 1901. Even thereafter, he frequently visited western North Dakota to hunt and refresh his soul in the badlands, where he said "the romance of my life began."

Roosevelt's last visit to North Dakota came in the fall of 1918, just a few months before his death at the age of 60.

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