Park Number: 44/59
First Visited: March 12, 2015
Of all the national parks, this is the only one in which I’ve seen a fence line. A property boundary. Oil wells on one side (pumpjacks and on-site flaring), a trailhead on the other. That’s become the story out here, oil. This region had to have been so peaceful before the Bakken boom, a relatively unknown badlands region of North Dakota. But now? Thousands flood the area looking to benefit from the earth’s sweet black honey. Industrial trucks crowd the roads, highway fatalities increasing. Man-camps cover barren ground, as if make-shift military outposts. Dust, everywhere. And this land is for sale, mineral rights for grabs, just attend a BLM auction as evidence. But once, I'm sure, so peaceful.
Teddy came here, in 1884, for the solitude, after his wife and mother died on the same Valentine’s Day. He wanted a landscape to match the desolation of his heart. The light has gone out of my life, he wrote. But, as the trope goes, nature healed his wounds. He became a Westerner. Then our twenty-sixth president and a champion of land management. There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country, he'd write. I wonder, though, what would he would think of his namesake park now.