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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

This program has been canceled. Ticket holders will be notified about credit and/or refund options.

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

5-Day Tour

Depart: Saturday, September 19, 2020 - 6 p.m.
Return: Wednesday, September 23, 2020 - Mid-afternoon
Code: 1NNNDK
$1,625 - Double Room Member
$1,925 - Single Room Member
$2,100 - Double Room Non-Member
$2,400 - Single Room Non-Member

Theodore Roosevelt National Park (National Park Service)

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 place of refuge and solace after the deaths of his wife and mother.

The Badlands did transform Roosevelt over the course of the more than three decades he lived or visited there, reinventing himself into the kind of vigorous outdoorsman 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 an extraordinary 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, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University, and National Park Service rangers are among the specialists who 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 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.


  • Participants are responsible to 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.


  • Program begins Saturday, Sept. 19 at 6 p.m. with dinner in Bismarck and ends Wednesday, Sept. 23 with a mid-day transfer to the Bismarck Airport.
  • Cost includes 4 nights of accommodations, bus transportation, 10 meals (4 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners), gratuities, taxes, and entrance fees. An airport shuttle is provided by the hotel.
  • Single-room supplement $300 (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 registered, additional information will be sent via email.
  • For questions, call the tours office at 202-633-8647.
  • We suggest registrants consider personal trip insurance.
Other Connections

View a video in which Clay Jenkinson discusses the importance of North Dakota in Theodore Roosevelt’s life, as well as the first structure on the site of the planned presidential library at Dickinson State, a replica of the cabin on TR’s Elkhart Ranch.