A visit to the Elkhorn Ranch reveals the historic structures where Theodore Roosevelt once made his home ranch.
- Credit / Author:
- National Park Service
[Crickets, birds chirping.]
Thirty-five miles north of Medora, a level, grassy glade is nestled beside a bend in the Little Missouri River and surrounded by colorful, clay buttes. This was once the idyllic site of Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch.
This serene spot feels as if it is sheltered from the rest of the world. The noise and pollutants of modern life have not infiltrated this sanctuary.
Roosevelt's Elkhorn home stood here. It was 'a long, low house of logs' constructed in the Fall of 1884. This was 'a sizable place' sixty feet long and thirty feet wide with a veranda that faced the Little Missouri River where Roosevelt and his ranch hands would relax after the day's work.
In the hot, summer months, the thick rows of cottonwood trees shielded them from the blazing sun and the winding river was a pleasing source of refreshment.
Today, only the cornerstones remain to illustrate the size and placement of the Elkhorn Ranch house. Surrounding the house were corrals, workshops, and storage sheds.
During the 1880s, the Elkhorn Ranch was the center of Roosevelt's remote cattle ranching operation. The area would have been occupied by horses, cattle, and cowboys. The riverbottom was filled with life, and Roosevelt and his men later recalled those days as the happiest in their lives.
[Cowboys shouting, whistling]
When you step past the cornerstones and onto the patch of ground that once held the Elkhorn Ranch House, it feels as though you might just be able to hear one of TR's hunting tales traveling on the wind, or see the light of his oil lamp burning in a window in the wee hours of the morning. But now, the only sights and sounds that greet you are those without a human voice.
The Little Missouri River once flowed just a few feet from the cottonwood trees that shaded the ranch house's veranda. Today, its course has shifted away another fifty feet.
The ranch house and its surrounding structures were disassembled and repurposed long ago, but the site has not been forgotten or abandoned. Visiting the Elkhorn provides an opportunity to view this site as it was when Theodore Roosevelt first claimed it as his own, and we are dedicated to ensuring that it remains that way.
Today, we have to use our imaginations to fill in the empty spaces. Although we can't offer you a rocking chair to while away the hours at the Elkhorn, we do invite you to experience the resonating magic of this site for yourself.
[Soft Piano music, birds chirping]