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THEODORE ROOSEVELT NATIONAL PARK, N.D. – Approximately an hour before sunset, the landscape reflects a broken prism tint. The colors are a pale rainbow in scattershot, with pink, blue, red, purple, yellow and endless variations reflecting the rocks, which are a bit of a time capsule in the vertical direction.

The Badlands sweep across the horizon in a still image, the result of an eon of erosion. They are dazzling at any moment, but shimmer when the sun hits the horizon. It is more beautiful than I describe.

If you do not count the wind, everything is quiet, reflective and lonely, but without a trace of loneliness.

That is not why Theodore Roosevelt came in September 1883, a 24-year-old New Yorker full of self-confidence. He came hunting buffalo, which he did successfully. He also bought a ranch and decided to become a cattleman and a cowboy. The newly installed western businessman then returned to New York, where a broken heart waited.

A few months later, on Valentine's Day 1884, the mother and wife of Roosevelt died. Later that year he returned to the Dakota area, not to hunt, but to heal in silence and loneliness in the country.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is spread over three North Dakota tracts that swallow 70,477 hectares of natural wildness. The park is named after the president who founded five national parks and produced the preservation movement of the country. It is a fitting monument.

The North Unit covers just over 24,000 hectares, borders Highway 85 and is split by the Little Missouri River, which varies from rivulet to torrent, depending on rainfall and drainage. The South Unit is about 70 miles to the south, almost twice as large on 4659 hectares and attracts more visitors thanks to I-94, which embraces the park on the south side.

The 218-acre Elkhorn Ranch unit, purchased on the Little Missouri River Roosevelt for $ 400 in 1884 and about halfway between the North and South units, became his Dakota home, which Roosevelt recalled with love.

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"My home farm is on the river …" he added in his book "Hunting Trips of a Ranchman." "This veranda is a pleasant place in the summer evenings, when a cool breeze moves along the river and smuggles in the faces of the tired men, who tumble back into their rocking chairs … staring sleepy at the strange-looking bones opposite each other, until their sharp contours unclear and turn purple in the aftermath of the sunset. "

Roosevelt found what he was looking for in the work, the hunt, the landscape and the loneliness.

He made several trips to the ranch before he left for good in 1890.

He left a changed man. Great things were waiting, including a stint in the White House. Conservation became a cornerstone of his presidency. It was a dedication and dedication that could be traced back to this hard, lonely, rugged, character-forming place.

"It was here," he is famous and often quoted, "that the romance of my life began."

It can still have an effect on visitors.

Roosevelt National Park remains largely undeveloped, just as Teddy would have it. More than 40 percent (29,920 acres) of the total area of ​​the park of 70,447 has been designated as wilderness.

The North Unit has a small visitor center; a beautiful, isolated campsite; kilometers of hiking trails; a number of structures from the CCC era; buffalo; elk; a handful of longhorn cattle and other game. The Little Missouri River splits the beautiful landscape of Badlands.

The single road to the unit ends at the Oxbow Overlook, from which the snake Little Missouri shows how the river has and changes the landscape.

The surprisingly colorful Badlands terrain is dry, rough and rugged; a result of wind and erosion that gently removes sediment, scrubbing the land into a polishing agent. It is worth a visit.

If you go

Roosevelt National Park is open all year. Approximately 600,000 people visit the park annually, the majority of which arrive in June, July and August. The Juniper Campground, located in the North Unit in a slightly wooded valley, is also open all year, but some facilities are seasonal. For more information, go to nps.gov/thro/index.htm.

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Gary Garth has fished, tackled, hiked, camped, hunted and lost in most states and in different countries. He writes an outdoor and travel blog and stands up twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Read or share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/experience/america/national-parks/2018/11/10/theodore-roosevelt-national-park-north-dakota/1945454002/