Discover / Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch
Save a National Treasure
REGION: Midwest
Near Medora, ND
TYPE: Landscape
Theodore Roosevelt first came to North Dakota in 1883 to hunt buffalo. | Photo: Dickinson State University
Theodore Roosevelt first came to North Dakota in 1883 to hunt buffalo. | Photo: Dickinson State University
Protect the beauty and serenity of the historic place that inspired one of the greatest conservationists in presidential history.


Theodore Roosevelt hunted, ran cattle, and explored this expansive ranch in the rugged North Dakota Badlands in the late 19th century. It was here that the 26th president of the United States developed a deep appreciation for the American West and for conservation. Unfortunately, the serenity of the ranch, which lies on both sides of the Little Missouri River, is threatened by a proposed bridge that would introduce a visual disruption, as well as traffic, noise, and dust. In addition, the site is threatened by the potential development of private mineral rights that are scattered throughout the Elkhorn Ranchlands. An owner of a portion of those rights has proposed a gravel mine pit on a ridge within the Ranchlands and the view shed of the Elkhorn Ranch Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

National Significance

As early as the 1880s, Roosevelt witnessed the environmental degradation in the Badlands wrought by overgrazing and overhunting, an experience that led directly to the development of his influential conservation beliefs. Today, incompatible development imperils the Elkhorn Ranch landscape. Similar development threatens countless historic places on public lands across the country.

Campaign Goals

  • Promote a bridge location that will not harm the ranch and the surrounding landscape.
  • Provide long-term protection to Elkhorn Ranch from incompatible development.

Ways To Help

Donate to our campaign to save Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch.

Tell us why Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch matters to you.

Sign the petition urging the North Dakota governor to provide greater protection to Elkhorn Ranch!

Posted on February 11, 2015

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

The story of Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch and the National Trust for Historic Preservation's efforts to protect this "cradle of conservation" were recently featured in a radio segment on Ultimate Outdoors Radio. This Wisconsin-based station with an audience of outdoor enthusiasts learned of the Elkhorn Ranch from viewing our CBS Sunday Morning piece with correspondent Mo Rocca. While significant to the growth and history of North Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt and his Elkhorn Ranch resonate with a national audience. It is a place of great importance to our Nation's history, and it will take a Nation to protect it.

Please sign our petition in support of Elkhorn Ranch and check back often for additional updates. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on January 09, 2015

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

This week the U.S. Forest Service released its final decision to allow for the development of a 25-acre gravel pit within Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch and Greater Elkhorn Ranchlands National Register Historic District. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and several other interested stakeholders filed objections to the proposed development based on lacking compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act and inadequate consideration of a range of alternatives that could provide greater consideration of adverse impacts to this national treasure. Despite these objections, the agency approved the gravel pit, the proposed location of which is within a mile of the ranch house where Theodore Roosevelt sought solace from personal tragedy and built a conservation ethic and outlook that propelled him to the presidency.

The National Trust is disappointed that the Forest Service has approved this project and we continue to be concerned that the gravel pit will adversely affect the setting, solitude, and soundscape of the Elkhorn Ranch National Register Historic District. We will continue to work with our partners and decision-makers to ensure that this landscape, managed by the federal government for the enjoyment and appreciation of the American people, invokes the serene and naturally wild character with which our 26th President became so enamored.

Please sign our petition in support of Elkhorn Ranch and check back often for additional updates. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure. 

Posted on January 06, 2015

Excerpted from CBS Sunday Morning:

The Elkhorn Ranch occupied a remote and empty patch of the North Dakota Badlands. And to this day it occupies an important part of a former U.S. president’s legacy. Mo Rocca of CBS Sunday Morning is our guide…

Learn more about Elkhorn Ranch's Star Turn on our Preservation Nation blog >>

Read the full CBS Sunday Morning story >>

Posted on October 27, 2014

Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project ManagerValerie Naylor

Today is Theodore Roosevelt's 156th birthday. In 2003, 145 years after his birth, one of the National Park Service's most dedicated leaders, Valerie Naylor, took the helm as superintendent of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. She had grown a love for the remarkable place in the heart of North Dakota's Badlands when she interned there with the Student Conservation Association in 1979. Valerie's return to the Badlands as superintendent coincided with the rapid rise of the current oil and gas boom. As a result, she spent her decade plus time at Theodore Roosevelt National Park working with the oil and gas industry, state government, other federal land managing agencies, and non-profit partners like the National Trust to ensure that Park resources were protected from negative impacts associated with oil and gas development.

This year, Valerie will be retiring from her post after more than three decades with the National Park Service. For her unceasing commitment to the preservation of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Valerie was awarded the prestigious Stephen T. Mather Award by the National Parks Conservation Association last year. She will continue working to protect the Park, including Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch, as a concerned citizen.

Valerie has been one of the strongest partners that the National Trust has had the fortune to work with through our National Treasures campaign. We look forward to our continued partnership with her in her new role, and congratulate her on an amazing career.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure. 

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jacob on November 11, 2013
theodore rooselvelt is my great great great great great uncle
Sandra Chesrown on October 11, 2013
Although I live in Arlington, VA, I grew up in North Dakota. My grandfather ranched near the Elkhorn at the time of TR, before moving to our current ranch outside Bismarck (The Horsehead). If you need any professional help, I am a member of the NTHP and a certified urban planner with a specialty in historic preservation - worked with the CO Savings Places network before moving to VA. I would be happy to work in ND as a professional volunteer to save the Elkhorn's viewshed. (
Alexis Taylor on October 03, 2013
Learning about TR, he is amazing, a wonderful president. Love learning about Elkhorn Ranch, would love to visit.
Jim Fuglie on June 06, 2012
The Elkhorn Ranch site is a tiny, remote spot in one of America's most remote landscapes, surrounded by a million acres of Badlands, mostly free from development, as natural as it was 125 years ago when Theodore Roosevelt lived and ranched here, developed his conservation ethic, and went on to become our greatest conservation president. On a crisp January day years ago, my wife Lillian and I sat on a giant fallen cottonwood log here and felt the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt all around us. We return each year to thank him for his vision and his gift to future generations.
Jenny B. on June 06, 2012
My first trip to Elkhorn Ranch was also my first trip to North Dakota. I expected something similar to the South Dakota Badlands, but the North Dakota Badlands were like nothing I had ever seen before. Pure, rugged beauty. Looking out at the Little Missouri River from the ranch site, I could easily feel what drew Theodore Roosevelt back to the place over and over again, and how that feeling cemented his cause for conservation.

Take Action Today

Please sign our petition to Gov. Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota to provide greater protection to Elkhorn Ranch.

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