This page contains numerous quotes used currently or in past versions of the park website. Many of the quotes listed here are from Theodore Roosevelt's popular books Hunting Trips of a Ranchman and The Wilderness Hunter.
"I have always said I would not have been President had it not been for my experience in North Dakota."
"It was here that the romance of my life began."
"I grow very fond of this place, and it certainly has a desolate, grim beauty of its own, that has a curious fascination for me."
"The Bad Lands grade all the way from those that are almost rolling in character to those that are so fantastically broken in form and so bizarre in color as to seem hardly properly to belong to this earth."
"Rattlesnakes are only too plentiful everywhere; along the river bottoms, in the broken, hilly ground, and on the prairies and the great desert wastes alike...If it can it will get out of the way, and only coils up in its attitude of defence when it believes that it is actually menaced."
"One of our sweetest, loudest songsters is the meadow-lark...the plains air seems to give it a voice, and it will perch on the top of a bush or tree and sing for hours in rich, bubbling tones."
"They have a funny habit of gravely bowing or posturing at the passer-by, and stand up very erect on their legs." -- Theodore Roosevelt on burrowing owls
"Magpies are birds that catch the eye at once from their bold black and white plummage and long tails; and they are very saucy and at the same time very cunning and shy."
"One bleak March day,...a flock of snow-buntings came...Every few moments one of them would mount into the air, hovering about with quivering wings and warbling a loud, merry song with some very sweet notes. They were a most welcome little group of guests, and we were sorry when, after loitering around a day or two, they disappeared toward their breeding haunts."
"In a great many--indeed, in most--localities there are wild horses to be found, which, although invariably of domestic descent, being either themselves runaways from some ranch or Indian outfit, or else claiming such for their sires and dams, yet are quite as wild as the antelope on whose domain they have intruded."
"Prairie-dogs are abundant...; they are in shape like little woodchucks, and are the most noisy and inquisitive animals imaginable. They are never found singly, but always in towns of several hundred inhabitants; and these towns are found in all kinds of places where the country is flat and treeless."
"Around the prairie-dog towns it is always well to keep a look-out for the smaller carnivora, especially coyotes and badgers...and for the larger kinds of hawks. Rattlesnakes are quite plenty, living in the deserted holes, and the latter are also the homes of the little burrowing owls."
"The extermination of the buffalo has been a veritable tragedy of the animal world."
"The river flows in long sigmoid curves through an alluvial valley of no great width. The amount of this alluvial land enclosed by a single bend is called a bottom, which may be either covered with cotton-wood trees or else be simply a great grass meadow. From the edges of the valley the land rises abruptly in steep high buttes whose crests are sharp and jagged. This broken country extends back from the river for many miles, and has been called always, by Indians, French voyageurs, and American trappers alike, the "Bad Lands"..."
"My home ranch-house stands on the river brink. From the low, long veranda, shaded by leafy cotton-woods, one looks across sand bars and shallows to a strip of meadowland, behind which rises a line of sheer cliffs and grassy plateaus. This veranda is a pleasant place in the summer evenings when a cool breeze stirs along the river and blows in the faces of the tired men, who loll back in their rocking-chairs (what true American does not enjoy a rocking-chair?), book in hand--though they do not often read the books, but rock gently to and fro, gazing sleepily out at the weird-looking buttes opposite, until their sharp outlines grow indistinct and purple in the after-glow of the sunset."
"My home ranch lies on both sides of the Little Missouri, the nearest ranch man above me being about twelve, and the nearest below me about ten, miles distant."
"The story-high house of hewn logs is clean and neat, with many rooms, so that one can be alone if one wishes to."
"Rough board shelves hold a number of books, without which some of the evenings would be long indeed."
"I do not believe there ever was any life more attractive to a vigorous young fellow than life on a cattle ranch in those days. It was a fine, healthy life, too; it taught a man self-reliance, hardihood, and the value of instant decision...I enjoyed the life to the full."
"This broken country extends back from the river for many miles and has been called always be Indian, French voyager and American trappers alike, the Bad Lands."
"Nothing could be more lonely and nothing more beautiful than the view at nightfall across the prairies to these huge hill masses, when the lengthening shadows had at last merged into one and the faint after-glow of the red sunset filled the west."
"The beauty and charm of the wilderness are his for the asking, for the edges of the wilderness lie close beside the beaten roads of the present travel."
"I heartily enjoy this life, with its perfect freedom, for I am very fond of hunting, and there are few sensations I prefer to that of galloping over these rolling limitless prairies, with rifle in hand, or winding my way among the barren, fantastic and grimly picturesque deserts of the so-called Bad Lands…"
"...its toughness and hardy endurance fitted it to contend with purely natural forces...to resist cold and wintery blasts or the heat of the thirsty summer, to wander away to new pastures, to plunge over the broken ground, and to plow its way through snow drifts or quagmires."
"There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm."
"Sometimes we vary our diet with fish - wall-eyed pike, ugly slimy catfish, and other uncouth finny things, looking very fit denizens of the mud-choked water..."
"After nightfall the face of the country seems to alter marvelously, and the clear moonlight only intensifies the change. The river gleams like running quicksilver, and the moonbeams play over the grassy stretches of the plateaus...The Bad Lands seem to be stranger and wilder than ever, the silvery rays turning the country into a kind of grim fairyland."
"Water is a commodity not by any means to be found everywhere...When found, it is more than likely to be bad, being either from a bitter alkaline pool, or from a hole in a creek, so muddy that it can only be called liquid by courtesy."
"...lands, where the ground is roughest, and where there is some cover, even though scattered and scanty, are the best places to find the black-tail [mule deer]."
"The little owls call to each other with tremulous, quavering voices throughout the livelong night, as they sit in the creaking trees."
"Now and then we hear the wilder voices of the wilderness, from animals that in the hours of darkness do not fear the neighborhood of man: the coyotes wail like dismal ventriloquists, or the silence may be broken by the snorting and stamping of a deer."
"Nowhere, not even at sea, does a man feel more lonely than when riding over the far-reaching, seemingly never-ending plains; and after a man has lived a little while on or near them, their very vastness and loneliness and their melancholy monotony have a strong fascination for him."
"At nightfall the poor-wills begin to utter their boding call from the wooded ravines back in the hills; not the "whip-poor-will," as in the East, but with two syllables only."
"The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom."
"We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune."
"It is an incalculable added pleasure to any one's sum of happiness if he or she grows to know, even slightly and imperfectly, how to read and enjoy the wonder-book of nature."
"The joy of living is his who has the heart to demand it."
"While my interest in natural history has added very little to my sum of achievement, it has added immeasurably to my sum of enjoyment in life."
"We are prone to speak of the resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so."
"I do not believe that any man can adequately appreciate the world of to-day unless he has some knowledge of -- a little more than a slight knowledge, some feeling for and of -- the history of the world of the past."
"...wild flowers should be enjoyed unplucked where they grow."
"The lack of power to take joy in outdoor nature is as real a misfortune as the lack of power to take joy in books."
"There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children's children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred."
"It is not what we have that will make us a great nation; it is the way in which we use it."
TR, after camping in Yosemite National Park: "It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man."
"A grove of giant redwood or sequoias should be kept just as we keep a great and beautiful cathedral."
"In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it."
"We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation."
"I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us."
"Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us."
"Spring would not be spring without bird songs, any more than it would be spring without buds and flowers, and I only wish that besides protecting the songsters, the birds of the grove, the orchard, the garden and the meadow, we could also protect the birds of the sea-shore and of the wilderness."
"Life is a great adventure…accept it in such a spirit."
"All life in the wilderness is so pleasant that the temptation is to consider each particular variety, while one is enjoying it, as better than any other. A canoe trip through the great forests, a trip with a pack-train among the mountains, a trip on snow-shoes through the silent, mysterious fairy-land of the woods in winter--each has its peculiar charm."
"it is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals -- not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements. But at last it looks as if our people were awakening."
"And to lose the chance to see frigatebirds soaring in circles above the storm, or a file of pelicans winging their way homeward across the crimson afterglow of the sunset, or a myriad terns flashing in the bright light of midday as they hover in a shifting maze above the beach -- why, the loss is like the loss of a gallery of the masterpieces of the artists of old time."
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Last updated: April 10, 2015