Theodore Roosevelt came to Medora in 1881 to hunt Buffalo. He fell in love with the area and purchased interest in a ranch. When he left to return to New York, he left instructions for the construction of a small house on the ranch that became known as the Maltese Cross House. He returned there after the death of his wife and mother on the same day in 1884. The cabin has been moved from it’s original location ten miles south of Medora and, after being displayed at various locations, including the St. Louis World’s Fair during his presidency, it is sitting behind the visitor’s center at the entrance to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Roosevelt lived in the cabin for a year before moving 32 miles north to establish the Elkhorn Ranch along the Little Missouri River. Nothing remains of the buildings of the Elkhorn Ranch but the area is still maintained by the park service. It is located in a very remote location on park lands accessible only by a road from the park that goes through the river, or a long series of dirt roads leading in from the west.
Apparently not all tourists are willing to drive over 30 miles on dusty dirty roads to visit a site where there is nothing but an empty field. The only traffic we encountered on this journey consisted of large oil trucks going ninety miles an hour! As a truck approached we would pull over and wait until the cloud of dust would allow us to see again.
OK, so we did meet some other site seers along the way. This fellow gave us the eyeball as we slowly passed by but didn’t have anything to say.
As we made the final turn and approached the parking area for the ranch the road narrowed down to one lane for three miles. We were following the map provided by the park but there were no signs telling us we were on the right road. At this point we began to get a bit concerned.
But, alas, soon the parking area appeared. And, fortunately for us, we were able to find an empty spot to park.
A few blogs ago we had a picture of a car covered in dirt and made snide remarks about it. We now retract those comments, as our car has become a “North Dakotan”. There are no car washes in the little town of Medora, so the car will have to remain in this disgusting condition for a few days.
After a mile walk through a bug infested field (with no bug spray), we found the site of the Elkhorn Ranch House. In the picture below you can just see the outline of the hills in the old picture of the ranch on the display, with the same hills in the background of our picture.
Looking a bit to the right you can see between the two trees where the house was, as shown on the picture on the display.
The two stones below mark the entrance to the ranch house. There are also some stakes around that we think mark corners of buildings.
So, after over thirty miles of dusty, dirt road we were rewarded with a view of a field. And apparently not many others made the trip as there was a sign-in book next to the parking lot. The last visitors to sign did so three days ago. But John had to stand where cowboy Roosevelt stood, so it was worth the trip.
We returned to Medora and stopped to eat at the Cowboy Cafe, a small restaurant where the walls are covered with pictures of cowboys from the area.
The soup and sandwich were both very tasty. And since it was before the dinner rush, we were the only patrons and had a nice talk with the two servers. Both attend high school in the area about 20 miles to the west, one in North Dakota and one in Montana. It was interesting to hear how schools operate in remote areas like this.
Tomorrow we continue west about 250 miles to Hardin, MT, just southeast of Billings. More on that later . . .