TR Center announces Theodore Roosevelt Trail initiative
Amy Magstadt, associate director of communications, (701) 483-2595 Amy.Magstadt@dickinsonstate.edu
Theodore Roosevelt’s time as a rancher, hunter and cowboy in the Dakota badlands had a profound and lasting effect on his life, and his legacy continues to shape the North Dakota experience. A new initiative by the Theodore Roosevelt Center highlights a dozen or so specific sites across the state, illuminating Roosevelt’s impact on North Dakota.
The Theodore Roosevelt Trail consists of well-known places such as Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch in the badlands of southwestern North Dakota, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park that houses his original Maltese Cross Ranch cabin, and Sullys Hill National Game Preserve which Roosevelt established in 1904 as a national park. While these sites offer beauty and an atmosphere for reflection, the “Trail” also includes lesser-known, but still significant, locations that reveal the legacy of TR in North Dakota.
“We know that Roosevelt had a much wider influence in North Dakota than just his legacy in the badlands,” said Clay Jenkinson, humanities scholar for the Theodore Roosevelt Center. “In working on this project, and using materials from the TR Center archives, we discovered that every one of these sites has a fascinating, and as yet untold, story.” To encourage travel on the TR Trail, the Center has produced a brochure and webpage that give a brief overview of these Roosevelt-related places, including a map and directions to each site. The brochure is available in rest areas throughout North Dakota. The webpage, which includes more detailed information about each site, can be accessed by visiting www.theodorerooseveltcenter.org and clicking on the Theodore Roosevelt Trail tab in the Learn About TR drop-down menu.
“Our goal is not only to encourage people to visit these sites, but then to use our TR Center resources to learn more about TR’s footprint across North Dakota,” Jenkinson said.
The TR Center sees this initiative not only as a way to highlight the Roosevelt-related sites in North Dakota, but also as an opportunity for the project to expand into other states.
“We want to encourage every other state, especially in the West, to use our template and create the TR Trail of Montana, Oregon, and so on,” said Jenkinson.
Points of interest along the “Trail”
Dakota National Forest
The Dakota National Forest was established by Roosevelt in 1908. The 13,940-acre Ponderosa Pine forest is situated along the Little Missouri River in the southern badlands of western North Dakota. Although its National Forest status was abolished in 1917, visitors can still access the forest by visiting the Logging Camp Ranch, a working cattle ranch that offers camping and cabins.
Dickinson is home to a life-sized bronze sculpture of Roosevelt that graces the Stark County Courthouse grounds. The statue, sculpted by Tom Bollinger, stands on the site of Roosevelt’s first great national speech in 1886. Interpretive panels describe TR’s time in the badlands and the opportunity to speak that brought him to the Independence Day celebration in Dickinson.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located in the heart of the North Dakota badlands and consists of more than 70,000 acres. The rugged beauty and harshness of the land was well-noted by Roosevelt who stated, “It was here that the romance of my life began.”
The Elkhorn Ranch is one of two ranches Roosevelt established in the badlands. Here he grieved for his wife and mother who died within hours of each other on Valentine’s Day 1884. It was also here that he became enamored with the strenuous life and conservation. Although the buildings are gone, the foundation stones of Roosevelt’s cabin remain.
Lower Yellowstone Irrigation District
The Lower Yellowstone Irrigation District is located on the North Dakota-Montana border and is one of 24 such projects authorized by the Roosevelt administration as a result of the Newlands Reclamation Act passed in 1902.
A large bronze statue of Roosevelt on horseback stands at Roosevelt Park in Minot. The statue was commissioned by Roosevelt’s longtime friend Dr. Henry Waldo Coe and created by artist Alexander Phimister Proctor. It was cast in 1923 and donated to the City of Minot in 1924. Coe had three such statues made: one, a larger scale model of the same design, is in Portland, Ore.; a second, which was cast a year earlier, is in Mandan, N.D.
Roosevelt designated Sullys Hill a National Park in 1904, and it was redefined as a National Game Preserve in 1914. The preserve is located on the south shore of Devils Lake in Benson County. Wildlife that had been decimated during western settlement, such as bison, elk, and white-tailed deer, were re-introduced to the park in 1917-18. Sullys Hill is home to abundant wildlife that can be observed while driving the four-mile auto tour or while hiking one of two nature trails. A visitor’s center offers information about the types of birds and animals on site, as well as educational events.
Stump Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Roosevelt established Stump Lake National Wildlife Refuge in 1905. The refuge consisted of four islands and was intended as a bird sanctuary. With the natural expansion of nearby Devils Lake, the islands are now underwater. There is, however, a recreation area on the east side of Stump Lake.
Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Roosevelt gave the executive order to establish Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge in 1908, when the native nesting pelican population had dropped to only 50 birds because of indiscriminate hunting. Three years earlier, local settler H.H. McCumber had counted about 500 pelicans nesting at the lake. Today, the Refuge is home to more than 30,000 breeding pelicans during the summer months. In the fall, they migrate south and are believed to spend the winters on the Gulf Coast. The shallow, alkaline lake covers more than 3,000 acres and is surrounded by medium-grass prairie. The best time to view the pelicans is mid-April to late August.
Roosevelt Statue, Old Main, NDSU campus, Fargo
In May 1910, Theodore Roosevelt was asked by United States Representative Louis Hanna (later governor of North Dakota) to sit for a sculpture by Gustav Vigeland of Christiana (Oslo), Norway. Vigeland planned to create a large statue of Roosevelt, but Roosevelt felt that a sculpture of a pioneer or cowboy would be more representative of North Dakota. He also wrote it was his firm belief that “…no man should ever have a statue until he has been dead some little time.” Consequently, the large version of the statue was never cast. However, in the 1970s, the American Scandinavian Foundation helped procure a cast of the plaster model and it now resides in Old Main on the North Dakota State University campus in Fargo.
Roosevelt 1910 library dedication cornerstone, Bonanzaville, Fargo
On May 9, 1910, Theodore Roosevelt spoke at the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Fargo College Library, which was located on 7th Street South in Fargo. The Fargo College closed in 1922 and the building was razed in 1964. The cornerstone, however, was preserved and is currently housed at Bonanzaville USA in West Fargo.
Theodore Roosevelt International Highway
The North Dakota section of the Theodore Roosevelt International Highway (U.S. Highway 2) runs along the northern tier of the state from Grand Forks to the Montana border. The Theodore Roosevelt International Highway was a transcontinental North American highway through the United States and Canada from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon with a total length of about 4,060 miles. The highway was designated a memorial after Roosevelt’s death in 1919. In 1926, the federal government adopted the United States Numbered Highway System, and by the 1930s the name “Theodore Roosevelt International Highway” fell into disuse.
Roosevelt Statue, Five Nations Arts, Main Street, Mandan
The equestrian statue was commissioned by Theodore Roosevelt’s long-time friend Dr. Henry Waldo Coe. Sculptor Alexander Phimister Proctor designed the sculpture to reflect the qualities of courage, fearlessness and controlled energy that Coe had always admired in Roosevelt. The statue was cast in 1922 and dedicated July 2, 1924. It was placed along Main Street at the eastside depot park. In 1930, it was relocated to accommodate the construction of the current depot at 401 W. Main St., which now houses Five Nations Arts, and sits on the intersection of Main Street and Third Avenue. Coe had three such statues made: one, a larger scale model of the same design, is in Portland, Ore.; a second, which was cast a year later, is in Minot, N.D.
North Dakota State Capitol Rough Rider Award Recipients Display
The Roughrider Award is the highest honor bestowed by the state of North Dakota and is an honorary rank of Colonel in the North Dakota Theodore Roosevelt Rough Riders. The award was established during the 1961 Dakota Territory Centennial and recognizes present or former North Dakotans who have been influenced by North Dakota and achieved national recognition. Recipients of the award are chosen by the Governor, in agreement with the Secretary of State, and the Director of the State Historical Society. The recipients’ achievements reflect honor on North Dakota and its people. To date, 39 North Dakotans have received the award. Their portraits can be seen in the lower level of the North Dakota State Capitol Building.
Theodore Roosevelt Expressway
The Theodore Roosevelt Expressway (TRE, also known as U.S. Highway 85 and U.S. Highway 2) traverses the western side of the state, beginning at the South Dakota border on U.S. Highway 85 to Williston, where it turns west on U.S. Highway 2 to the Montana border. The entire route begins at Rapid City, S.D., and ends where it enters Canada at the Port of Raymond in Montana. The TRE is the northern third of the Ports to Plains Alliance, a proposed four-lane highway promoting trade and transportation through the Great Plains. The southern section of the expressway takes travelers through rural agricultural country that skirts the badlands Theodore Roosevelt loved. The central section crosses oil country, and to the north is rural prairie land. Traveling the TR Expressway offers a look at the diversity of both nature and industry in western North Dakota.