Theodore Roosevelt National Park - North Unit and the Maah-Daah-Hey Trail
From Watford City, take Highway 85 and travel south for approximately 15 miles. Proceed west on the scenic drive through the North Unit of the park – an approximate 14 mile drive one way. Continue down Highway 85 for approximately a ½ mile, passing over the Long X Bridge, take a right onto Long X Road and follow it to the northern terminus of the Maah Daah Hey Trail.
The Long X Trading Post
Start your trip at The Long X Trading Post Visitor Center and Pioneer Museum – your destination for information on McKenzie County’s past and present. Check out North Dakota’s Largest Petrified Tree Stump and pick up brochures on Western North Dakota’s vacation attractions.
The Pioneer Museum lays a great foundation to any touring in the area. Offering two levels, the Museum presents the pioneering spirit of McKenzie County residents of the past and present. Visit the pioneer parlor and experience all the comforts of home. Check out the Prairie School and the sewing and quilting of the early prairie homestead women and Native American women of McKenzie County. Learn about the last lynching in North Dakota taking place in 1931. See a presentation on what it takes to drill for oil in McKenzie County and view the “to scale” Drilling Rig and Work Over Rig on display in the Oil and Gas Exploration exhibit.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit
Teddy Roosevelt fell in love with the North Dakota Badlands on a big game hunting trip in the 1800’s. The man who would become “the Conservation President” stayed on for a good part of five years.
This byway provides the colorful North Dakota Badlands as a scenic backdrop with its sweeping vistas of one of the last remnants of wilderness in the Northern Great Plains. Visitors are provided a unique opportunity for wildlife viewing.
A large herd of buffalo free-roam the park along with the herd of Texas longhorn steers. A herd of Bighorn Sheep are also residents. The park abounds in other wildlife as well. Deer, antelope, coyotes, fox, and prairie dogs. For those of you who prefer to explore the park area on foot or horseback, there are serveral nature trails along with the Upper Caprock Coulee, Achenback and Buckhorn trails which take you into the backcountry.
The park has the Juniper Creek Campground, along the banks of the Little Missouri River, offering secluded primitive campsites, evening campfire presentations, nature walks and long hikes.
Maah Daah Hey Trail
The north end of the trail begins at the US Forest Service CCC Campground in McKenzie County, located 20 miles south of Watford City, off Highway 85. The 97 mile trail then winds its way to its southern terminus at Sully Creek State Park in Billings County, south of Medora. At the northern terminus you are able to access additional trails: Long X Trail, Summit Trail, Bennett Trail and Cottonwood Trail.
The trail name, "Maah Daah Hey", comes from the Mandan Indians. In the Mandan language, one word or phrase can describe a picture, feeling, or situation. In this case, the phrase means "an area that has been or will be around for a long time." The trail uses a turtle as the trail marker. The turtle was honored because of its firm determination, steadfastness, patience, long life, and fortitude.
The trail traverses an area of highly dissected badlands surrounded by large expanses of gently rolling prairie. This area of North Dakota provides prime habitat for a variety of mammals and birds. Mule deer and coyotes are often sighted, while an occasional golden eagle or prairie falcon may be spotted soaring above. Bighorn sheep and elk have been reintroduced into the area and can be spotted by keen observers. In addition, bison and Long Horn roam the range in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
The trail is open for use all year, but at various times of the year, the trail may be impassable due to snow, ice, high water, and mud. Users of the Maah Daah Hey Trail share the same space with horseback riders, hikers, and bicyclists. Users are expected to respect the rights of others. Shared-use trails are successful when users cooperate and abide by the rules.