A trip to historic Medora, North Dakota

By Janet Wight

A summer road trip to Medora, North Dakota, rekindled my fascination with the unique badlands in the western region of this prairie state. 

Similar to the colorful layered formations found in better-known Badlands National Park in South Dakota, yet refreshingly verdant and more subdued in hue; the omnipresent hills are a delightful surprise when driving through this dynamic community on Interstate 94.

Medora, located 25 miles east of the Montana border, is an enjoyable place to spend a few days with plenty of activities to keep everyone happy.

It is hard to outshine the natural beauty of this area. The south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located just north of Medora. The imposing stratified mounds, best viewed while driving along the exceptionally scenic 36-mile loop road, are striking.

Note: Four miles of the scenic drive are closed due to road deterioration, necessitating a 48 mile out-and-back round trip instead.

There are several nature walks and accessible paths at different points along the loop, in addition to a few longer trails. The Old East Entrance Station trail features an active black-tailed prairie dog colony, delighting visitors as they walk through the habitat created by these charismatic creatures.

The rich history of this area is focused primarily on Theodore Roosevelt, who originally traveled to Medora as a young gentleman all the way from New York City. The deep connections that were forged in Medora allowed him to hone the interpersonal skills that would become an essential element of his future political persona.

The Teddy Roosevelt Show, with winsome TR superbly portrayed by actor Joe Wiegand, lays the groundwork for a deeper understanding of the complex relationship between the man and his environs. History buffs may ponder the impact of this harsh landscape on the subsequent life and profound career of our 26th president.

The Medora Musical, which recounts the intriguing saga of this frontier settlement, has been performed continuously since 1965. Brimming with energetic singing, dancing and patriotism, this lively outdoor revue is engaging for visitors of all ages.

A variety of other plays and productions are also offered in Medora, staged either in the Old Town Hall Theater or outdoors in the lovely Burning Hills Amphitheatre, to suit every taste. Attractions including a miniature golf course, a zipline, a lazy river and even ubiquitous pickleball courts provide ample opportunities for active recreation.

It is easy to understand why Medora has long beckoned travelers to enjoy its uncommon terrain, western culture and old-fashioned family fun. 

Janet Wight, a resident of Como Park where she lives with her husband and daughters, is a regular freelance writer for the Bugle

Leave a Reply