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Theodore Roosevelt’s North Dakota: Badlands, Bison, and the Making of a Conservationist

In-Person Program

Multi-Day Tour

Saturday, October 7, 2023 - 6:00 p.m., to Wednesday, October 11, 2023 - 12:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1CNNDK
Detailed information for overnight tours
is mailed approximately FOUR WEEKS
prior to departure.
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Single Room Member
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Materials for this program

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

In 1883, Theodore Roosevelt looked to the Badlands of western North Dakota as a place where he could transform himself from an asthmatic 24-year-old New Yorker into a big-game hunter, rancher, and authentic cowboy. A year later, it took on new meaning as a place of refuge and solace after the deaths of his wife and mother.

Over the course of the more than three decades he lived or visited there, the Badlands did indeed transform Roosevelt into the kind of vigorous outdoorsman that he’d idealized as a youth—and that shaped his public image as president. Perhaps more importantly, this corner of the West turned him into a passionate conservationist dedicated to the preservation of the rugged landscapes and native wildlife of the place he described as “where the romance of my life began.”

Experience those landscapes—filled with dramatic vistas, vividly colored canyons, and wandering herds of wild bison—on a 5-day study tour led by author and naturalist Melanie Choukas-Bradley that brings you into the heart of Roosevelt’s Badlands and the national park that bears his name.

The tour begins in Bismarck with a welcome dinner and introduction by the tour staff. The following morning, travel by bus to the historic town of Medora, where the Rough Riders Hotel (the modern incarnation of an inn where TR once stayed) provides a base for the group. Over the course of the next days, explore the north and south units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park by bus and on foot, as well as the site of Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch along the Little Missouri River (easy and moderate hiking options offered). Clay Jenkinson, Theodore Roosevelt Humanities Scholar at Dickinson State University’s Theodore Roosevelt Center, and National Park Service rangers offer insights into Roosevelt’s pivotal years in the Badlands and the area’s natural history.

Say farewell to North Dakota with an intimate private reception and a performance by local musician Jessie Veeder at the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in Medora.

The next morning, the return trip to Bismarck includes a stop at the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum before your transfer to the airport.

Know Before You Go

  • Program begins Saturday, October 7, at 6 p.m. with dinner in Bismarck and ends Wednesday, October 11, with a midday transfer to Bismarck Airport.
  • Cost includes 4 nights of accommodations, bus transportation, services of a study leader and Smithsonian representative, 10 meals (4 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners), gratuities, taxes, and entrance fees. An airport shuttle is provided by the hotel.
  • Single-room supplement $325 (factored into the Single Room Member and Single Room Non-Member pricing).
  • Singles registering at the double-room rate are paired (on a nonsmoking basis) if possible, but must pay the single-room supplement otherwise.
  • Once participants are registered, additional information will be sent via email. For questions, please call the tours office at 202-633-8599. We highly suggest registrants consider personal trip insurance. Travel insurance provides additional coverage against unforeseen incidents that require last-minute cancellations.
  • Travel information: Flights are not included; participants make independent flight arrangements to Bismarck, North Dakota. Round-trip fares typically range from $400 to $600 from Washington-area airports; American, United, and Delta serve this route.
  • Important note: Once the tour has reached its minimum registration, participants will be notified and encouraged to purchase airline tickets.

General Information

  • Registration for this tour will end by 2 p.m. ET on Friday, October 6, 2023.
  • Smithsonian is a mask-friendly environment. Masks are strongly recommended to be worn on buses at all times and may also be required at various indoor sites.
  • For additional tour information: