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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

This Overnight Tour is currently filled, but please call us to get on the Wait List by emailing

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

Depart from Bismarck, ND: Saturday, September 15, 2018 - 7:00 p.m.
Return to Bismarck, ND: Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - 1:00 p.m.
Code: 1NNNDK
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.

After assembling in Bismarck, travel 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, as well as the site of Roosevelt’s Elkhorn ranch along the Little Missouri River. 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.

The return trip to Bismarck includes a stop at Dickinson State, site of the future Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library. (Participants can opt to attend the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Symposium at the university, which takes place after the tour’s conclusion, at their own cost).


  • Program begins Saturday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. with dinner in Bismarck and ends Wednesday, Sept. 19 after lunch (around 1 p.m.) with a mid-day transfer to the Bismarck Airport or return to the hotel.
  • Cost includes 4 nights of accommodations, bus transportation, services of a study leader and Smithsonian representative, 11 meals (4 breakfasts, 4 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.
  • An initial informational packet is emailed to all participants within one week of registration with detailed instructions. For questions, call the tours office at 202-633-8647.
  • Registrants may want to consider purchasing trip insurance.
  • 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. Once the tour has reached its minimum registration, participants will be notified and encouraged to purchase airline tickets.
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.

Detailed information for overnight tours
is mailed approximately FOUR WEEKS
prior to departure. For immediate questions
please call 202-633-8647