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Bison in Theodore Roosevelt National Park
A hidden treasure in North Dakota. So much wildlife, so few people.
Last week I crossed another national park off of my list that is tucked into the border region of Montana and North Dakota. It's the former cattle ranch of our 26th president. I was surprised to learn he was a rancher in the middle of his political career after the death of his wife and mother on valentines day, which sent him into a deep depression.
I pulled in at sundown, passing a warning sign for bison. A few miles into the park, I was pleased to see dozens of bison doing animal stuff. Pawing, eating and trying to mate. One tourist got out of his vehicle to "get a better picture." I saw a bison take off running towards the man like Urlacher tracking a quarterback. I screamed at the man to look out as the bison whiffed by the width of the bumper at 36 mph. The man jumped back in his vehicle, assuring me, "I know, I know." Actually, he didn't know.
Bison can and do kill even those tourists who think they are doing the right thing. I like to say they are always aggressive because of that heavy wool coat they wear year round. Man, that has to be so hot! I saw inter-species play between an antelope and a young bison as they appeared to be playing chase across the prairie. I set my tent up in a nice grassy swale and listened to the coyotes howl and the bison growl all night long. In the morning, it was obvious my site had been visited by the 3,000 pound beasts as the roamed through the night.
Right after sunset, I was able to get amazing pictures of six different mammals as the sun came up. Coyotes, antelope, rabbits, mule deer, bison, and white tails. On my eleven mile hike through the park, I did not see any other tourists. The bison emit a low rumpling sound that can be heard from all directions.
For a beautiful August day, I did not see but a few other cars on the road. The geology and scenery were amazing as well. This is a visit that can be married with a trip to Mt. Rushmore one state to the south. Just don't everyone go all at once.
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