Family Fun in the Dakotas, Part 6: Medora and Theodore Roosevelt National Park

This is my sixth post about our family's visit to the Dakotas. I recommend reading the firstsecond, third, fourth, and fifth trip posts before this one. Because I blog about educational travel, I received free admission tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits for some of the places we visited during the trip. Other places we went are free for everyone. We paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. If you see any gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love that particular attraction, restaurant, or hotel enough to recommend it, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.


Medora, North Dakota and Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Sunday, July 30 was a beautiful day in Medora. We met Steve's parents at Town Square, a block from our hotel. We were there for the Medora Gospel Brunch

We passed through a buffet line filled with the most delicious breakfast items ever. Ham, bacon, eggs, potato casserole, donuts, fruit, and caramel rolls that are worth dropping what you are doing and driving to North Dakota right now. The food was that good. 

After eating our fill (seconds, thirds, and fourths were encouraged), the show began. There were three musicians and five singers who presented an hour-long medley of the best gospel songs. 

Even if you don't know gospel music, you'll be surprised how many of the songs you do know. Amazing Grace. When the Saints Go Marching In. I Saw the Light. What a Friend We Have in Jesus. He's Got the Whole World in His Hands. 

I knew about 75% of the songs. In the middle of the singing, there was a 10-minute, non-denominational sermon. 

We loved everything about the Gospel Brunch. Don't miss it!

We started at the South Unit Visitor Center.

We'd learned about this shirt, complete with bullet hole, back at our hotel in Milwaukee

The South Unit Visitor Center is walking distance from anywhere in Medora, but you'll need your car to see anything else. And due to road reconstruction, the 36-mile scenic loop is now 22 miles out and 22 miles back. It will be nice when it's a loop again. 

On the other hand, driving the same stretch of road in two different directions legitimately felt like completely different scenery. We saw things on the way back we'd totally missed on the drive in. 

We stopped at multiple places for short hikes. The grasshoppers were ridiculous, but otherwise it was awesome. This trail led to the Little Missouri River. 

The short but steep Buck Hill Trail took us to the highest accessible point in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The views were amazing. 

During our time in the park, we saw a zillion grasshoppers, thousands of prairie dogs, and exactly one bison. We'd learned that when you see a single bison, it's almost certainly a male. We didn't get a bison photo, because we're not selfish enough to block traffic to do so. Here's a prairie dog instead. I'll spare you the grasshopper photos. 

Theodore Roosevelt NP is a beautiful place. 

Next, we visited the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame

I did not want to make the same mistake as I did at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, so I explicitly asked the amount of time we should plan to spend. Answer: at least 2 hours, which allows time to watch the two short movies. 

The museum covers anything having to do with the cowboys and North Dakota, past and present. See the yellowish rectangular signs above Steve's head? That's a timeline.  

It had all sorts of interesting facts. Did you know that when North Dakota entered the Union in 1889, it did so as a dry state? Or that North Dakota lost population in 1933 due, in part, to hoppers? How many would there have to be for people to abandon their homes?! 

There's a lot to see at this museum. It's always neat to learn about different cultures when we travel. And "cowboy" is definitely a culture

I really enjoyed learning about rodeo clowns. More specifically, Steve Tomac, rodeo clown / Senator. That's a job pairing I've never seen before. 

Since I grew up in California, I was REALLY surprised to see the name of my hometown in the caption below the photo of Wayne Herman. On the other hand, the Livermore Rodeo has been going strong for 105 years, so I suppose it's not all that strange that a North Dakotan would have competed there. 

You're allowed to climb onto this bull for photos, but none of us did. It looks hard to balance on even without it moving!

The bulk of the museum is downstairs; upstairs, you'll find the actual Hall of Fame and a cool boardroom / lounge. 

Ever heard of the North Dakota Six Pack? I hadn't. 

We all learned so much at the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame!

We had an hour or so before we'd been meeting Steve's parents for dinner, so we strolled through Medora. It's a tiny town and totally charming. 

From left to right: Trevor deRosier, Kid. Theodore Roosevelt, President. Marquise de Morès, Namesake.


Look at this amazing playground! 

I didn't take pictures, but we had a fantastic dinner at Theodore's Dining Room. So good! 

If you've never been to Medora, you should go. 

Any guesses where we headed next? I'll give you a hint: if my count is right, it's the 44th state capital we've visited. I'll tell you about it tomorrow. 

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