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.

Posted on October 17, 2014

Mo Rocca, Stephanie Meeks and Ted Roosevelt Cross the Little Missouri River at Elkhorn Ranch.

Written by Erica Stewart, Team Member

UPDATE: We now expect the CBS piece to air in November. Please check back here and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates on the air date.

Nearly a year of behind-the-scenes coordination paid off in July when CBS Sunday Morning traveled to Medora, North Dakota, to shoot a segment on Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch. The president’s great-grandson, Theodore "Ted" Roosevelt IV, shared family stories during a horseback ride through the ranch site with correspondent Mo Rocca while National Trust President Stephanie Meeks spoke of the threats posed to the landscape by rampant oil and gas development. Elkhorn Ranch was named to the Trust’s 2012 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, and is one of the National Trust’s National Treasures. As such, the National Trust has been working hard for over two years on securing the long-term protection of the historic landscape from incompatible development.

We now expect the CBS piece to air on Sunday, October 26 between 9 am – 10:30 am. Be sure to tune in for a look at this site of great natural beauty and historic significance and to learn more about our efforts to protect it.

After you watch the segment, join the conversation on social media: 

National Trust for Historic Preservation: @PresNation
Stephanie Meeks: @SavePlacesPres

CBS Sunday: @CBSSunday
Mo Rocca: @MoRocca

National Trust for Historic Preservation:
CBS Sunday:

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. 

Posted on October 07, 2014

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project ManagerElkhorn Ranch

Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch is located in a remote setting roughly 35 miles north of the small town of Medora along the meandering Little Missouri River. It takes a bit of an effort to get there. The reward is worth it. As autumn continues to settle on the landscape the cottonwood trees that once shaded the Elkhorn Ranch are now brilliant hues. The setting is striking during any season, and information on how to get there can be found on the National Park Service's website.

To fully understand the Elkhorn Ranch as a place of serenity and natural beauty as Roosevelt did, one has to step foot on the landscape itself. This is more difficult for some then others, which is why the National Park Service has created videos that illustrate the story and qualities that make this nationally significant place so unique and inviting. If you can't visit the site in-person, you can experience it here.

Through Ken Burns' recently aired "The Roosevelts" film series on PBS, the nation learned of the integral role the Elkhorn Ranch played in building Theodore Roosevelt's conservation ethic. Now is the time to visit the Elkhorn Ranch, to experience the landscape firsthand, and build an appreciation in support of protecting it from development that could potentially impair its integrity and visitor experience.

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. 

Posted on September 09, 2014

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project ManagerTeddy Bear Cartoon

The origin of the Teddy Bear is distinctly tied to our 26th President Theodore Roosevelt. He is indeed the namesake.

Roosevelt first visited the North Dakota Badlands in 1883 on a hunting trip, and immediately developed a deep appreciation for the stunning, serence landscape that would become his Elkhorn Ranch. Several years later in 1902, he would find himself on another hunting trip, this time in Mississippi. According to the Theodore Roosevelt Association, Roosevelt was dismayed that he had not sighted bears like others in his party. In response, the hunting guides found an old black bear and tied him to a tree. Roosevelt refused to shoot it because it was unsporstmanlike, but he did request that it be put down because it was injured. Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman took advantage of ths situation and came up with the cartoon you see here that was printed in the Washington Post. Thus began Roosevelt's tie to bears.

The plush toy animal that we are all familiar with as the teddy bear sprung from the Washington Post cartoon. Morris Michtom, a Brooklyn, New York, candy store owner, capitalized on the media by placing two toy bears made by his wife in his shop window and called them "Teddy's Bears." They became so popular that Michtom began to mass produce them, leading him to form the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.

If you visit the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs, where Roosevelt stayed twice during his presidency, you'll hear a different story that claims the teddy bear originated at this historic hotel in the beautiful Coloraodo Rockies. But the Mississippi hunting trip is the true one. Nevertheless, teddy bears have had staying power, as has Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch legacy, so much so that September 9th marks National Teddy Bear Day.

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. 

Posted on July 30, 2014

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project ManagerElkhorn Ranch Horseback Ride

Visiting Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch on horseback is an ideal way to experience the landscape referred to by many as the "cradle of conservation." It was the way our 26th president Theodore Roosevelt travelled across the North Dakota Badlands, soaking in his passion for outdoor adventure, natural history and, ultimately, conservation.

In mid-July, National Trust for Historic Preservation President Stephanie Meeks and Theodore "Ted" Roosevelt IV visited this storied landscape on horseback. They were joined by CBS correspondent Mo Rocca for the taping of a CBS Sunday Morning story on the legacy of the Elkhorn Ranch, a National Treasure and 2012 11 Most Endangered Historic Places site of the National Trust. While much of the landscape retains the same serenity and beauty as during Roosevelt's time, those very qualities that spoke to Roosevelt are now threatened by oil, gas and other minerals development that mark the terrain.

It was remarkable to hear Ted Roosevelt's family stories and share the experience of visiting his great grandfather's former ranch home. Building greater public awareness of the importance of the Elkhorn Ranch to our nation's history and the threats that face this legacy is paramount to successfully protecting it for generations to come. The key is to find balance between resource extraction and conservation. As Roosevelt said, "I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us."

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.

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