We again traveled through miles of grassland before reaching the south unit of the park. This section has some of the same layered, colorful geology as the north, but the colors aren't as dramatic, and there seems to be more wildlife.
We'd just gotten things set up and Watch and I headed out to take our payment to the drop box when I noticed something moving in the trees behind our space, on the road. A buffalo looked up at me, and kept munching, but I turned around and went back to the trailer until he left. No point taking chances, and Watch always wants to shake hands with everything so we avoid those opportunities with wildlife!
I finally got the payment envelope dropped off, and we were back inside the trailer, getting dinner together, when Steve said "Look outside!"
Our space, and the one next to us, was full of buffalo! We'd heard they like to hang out in the campground and it does seem they're quite at home here, RV's and tents don't bother them in the least.
'Best advice to campers is "stay in your tent", we overheard a ranger say to another camper. "But what if they don't go away?" asked the camper. "Just stay in your tent" was the response. So, we did, so to speak.
The dogs sat inside and watched them through the screen door, and eventually they all wandered off. Talk about wildlife close up! We have noticed the buffalo walk slowly as they graze, so they seldom stay in one place for very long, that tent camper needn't have worried about them taking up residence in his site.
We took the 36 mile scenic drive, and thoroughly enjoyed the views, and the wildlife. The geologic formations are colorful, and as the shadows shift with the moving sun the colors change. Fascinating.
There are prairie dogs all over the place here, and they're FAT!
|Excuse me! Who did you say is fat?|
There are wide pull-outs at frequent intervals where the prairie dog villages are, so the little critters are accustomed to cars, people, and cameras.
They sit up and chatter and bark, and watch the people who are watching them. I suppose they think we are there to entertain them.
We heard coyotes singing during the night, so there are probably a couple fewer of those prairie dogs now. Judging by the numbers they they aren't endangered by any means, and they are probably the reason the coyotes and other meat eaters thrive here.
There are cottontail rabbits too, but they are seldom seen, the presence of our dogs probably has something to do with that.
The Little Missouri River runs by the campground, but there's not much water in it. The area has had frequent light rains all summer though, which accounts for all the green grass and the wildflowers still blooming. I'm sure the buffalo are enjoying the pasture grass they wouldn't normally have this time of year.
This cabin was built near where it is situated now, but the park service did move it in order to protect it. It was TR's home when he was here for the first few visits, but he found that so many people wanted to come and visit that he could not have the solitude he wanted, so he built another cabin, north of Medora by several miles. That cabin is completely gone now except for a few foundation stones, the rest of it carted off by collectors.
The visitor center museum has a lot of very nice artifacts and does a nice job of presenting the history in their displays. They also have very clever way of displaying Theodore's vest and other personal clothing items.
After touring the visitor center we took a tour of the Chateau De Mores State Historic Site, where the town of Medora began. A wealth French Marquis bought up much acreage in the area and built a beef processing and shipping business.
He convinced the Northern Pacific Railroad to build a station here, and once the settlement began to take shape he named the town after his wife Medora.
The Marquis' biggest contribution, I think, was the invention of a refrigerated shipping car. The cars were built with double walls which were filled with an ice/salt mixture, much like an old fashioned ice cream freezer. This device allowed for the local processing of beef, and subsequent shipment of it to eastern cities. Previously, cattle had been driven, on the hoof, to the slaughter plants closer to the east. In the process they often lost so much weight that the profit was lost. . . not to mention, the meat was tougher!
|The Chateau, with red roof, in the distance|
The chateau isn't much by European standards, but the 27 room house (10 bedrooms) was pretty grand by local standards when it was built in 1884. It was built high on the cliffs overlooking the town. It is now maintained by the state as a historic site. All that remains of the once extensive meat processing plant is the tall brick chimney that is now at the center of a city park. (on the left in the photo) (Photos from inside the Chateau are in this album)
After the touring we went back to camp to give the dogs a bit of an outing and to have some lunch. A brief thunderstorm cooled things off, then we went back into Medora for a performance that had been recommended to us by another traveler.
Theodore Roosevelt Salute to the National Parks was "Absolutely delightful!" as Theodore Roosevelt might have said.
Joe Wiegand portrays Theodore Roosevelt in a one hour performance that is both entertaining and educational. He's obviously well versed in the history, and much of his dialog comes directly from Roosevelt's own writings. I'm currently reading Theodore Roosevelt's Letters to His Children, and have found many of the passages were used in developing the performance. Wiegand does a wonderful job of portraying Roosevelt's exuberance and it's infectious. As we all filed out after the performance you could tell by the big smiles and the tears in a few eyes how much everyone in the audience had been inspired.
Time to pack up, we're heading south. We made a brief stop at the third Theodore Roosevelt NP visitor center, Painted Canyon, for one last look at the beautiful mountains on the way out. The geology here is amazing and it's too bad we don't have more time to explore the surrounding areas.
The South Unit album is here