Hiking in the North unit of Teddy Roosevelt National Park, Bakken Oil field/watford City – North Dakota


The North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park is an hour drive, yes north, of the South Unit, which we found unusual. The two dramatic swaths of Badlands are separated by flat grassland where cattle graze. The North Unit struck us as more remote and dramatic than the south, with fewer bison, deer and prairie dogs but higher more colorful canyons with buttes and mesas in more varied colors – grey volcanic ash that looked blue at times and deeply grooved tawny formations.

We walked the fantastic 4.2 mile Capstone Coulee trail (or we walked 5.6 miles and climbed 31 floors according dirck’s phone) around the base of some formations and, most spectacular, atop some formations on a high ridge with glorious panoramic views of the Little Missouri River way below. We also scampered across the midsection of the formations, atop softer than expected rock. We had the trail almost to ourselves and the sky was bluer and less hazy today. The north unit also had more patches of forest (some that we walked through) with orange and green-leafed trees, juniper bushes, yellow wildflowers and delicate purple asters.

We drove 10 miles north through boom (and now a little less booming) oil country to watford city, past oil patches, bright orange flames shooting up from the ground here and there, lots of temporary housing, new bars and amenities.

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