2016 5 oz ATB Theodore Roosevelt National Park
The Theodore Roosevelt National Park is the latest subject in the US Mint’s “America The Beautiful” (ATB) series. The park has its roots in a young Roosevelt’s 1883 bison hunting trip to the Dakota Territory. Roosevelt, who had been a naturalist from childhood, wanted to experience the American West and see a bison before they disappeared completely.
By the time his 15-day hunting trip was over, he had bagged his bison and made up his mind to become a rancher. Before he returned to New York, he had signed a contract to purchase the primary interest in a local ranch, known as the Maltese Cross, for $14,000. He paid for his new investments from his inheritance. Roosevelt eventually invested a further $82,500 in the Maltese Cross Ranch.
Upon his return to the Dakota Territory the next year, he bought more land further down the Little Missouri River, where he established his main holding, the Elkhorn Ranch. His Maltese Cross cabin has been restored, and is on display at the entrance to the South Unit of the park. The foundations of Elkhorn Ranch site are the centerpiece of the tiny Elkhorn Unit of the park, and remain untouched.
Throughout his life, Theodore Roosevelt took every opportunity to return to North Dakota, often for months at a time. The outdoor life of the West reinvigorated him after the stress of fighting political corruption back East. Importantly, it was where he retreated after losing his young wife and his 48-year old mother in a span of 11 hours on Valentine's Day, 1884. He spent the next two years roping cattle, stopping stampedes, knocking out a drunk gunslinger with his fists, establishing the area’s first Stockman's Association, and as Billings County Deputy Sheriff, arresting thieves who stole his boat.
Although he sold off most of his ranch holdings after the disastrous winter of 1886-1887, he visited the area often. His last visit was in the Fall of 1918, shortly before his death. He once said, "I would not have been president had it not been for my experience in North Dakota." Roosevelt arrived in the Dakota Territory the penultimate New York City “dude”: a skinny, asthmatic, moneyed young man wearing thick glasses. His strenuous life in the Dakota Badlands as a working cowboy and rancher forged the brash, athletic, commanding presence that captivated an America on the cusp of the 20th century.
The America The Beautiful Theodore Roosevelt National Park 5 oz Silver Coin
The 2016 America The Beautiful Theodore Roosevelt National Park 5 oz silver coin features a mounted Theodore Roosevelt in cowboy garb, surveying his ranchland on either side of the Little Missouri River. His left hand rests on his revolver, while his right grasps the saddle horn. In the far distance, the cliffs and gullies of the Dakota Badlands stretch across the horizon. THEODORE ROOSEVELT is emblazoned across the upper rim of the coin, with the year-date 2016 at the bottom. The year-date is flanked by the inscriptions NORTH DAKOTA and E PLURIBUS UNUM. The coin was designed by Joel Iskowitz and sculpted by Phebe Hemphill.
The obverse of the coin showcases John Flanagan’s original 1932 portrait of George Washington. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA arches over the Founding Father, while the denomination QUARTER DOLLAR resides beneath the bust. The mottos LIBERTY and IN GOD WE TRUST flank Washington, to the left and right respectively.
Like all “America The Beautiful” 5 oz coins, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park coin sells for a fixed premium over the spot price of silver.
Three Separate Parts
The Theodore Roosevelt National Park actually consists of three widely-separated sections: the South Unit, the Elkhorn Unit, and the North Unit. The original plan was to have all the sections connected into one National Park, but there were too many private landowners in the middle who were unwilling to sell. The total acreage of the Park is 70,446.89 acres, 29,920 acres of which is protected as the Theodore Roosevelt Wilderness. As a designated National Wilderness, no development at all is allowed. Motor vehicles and bicycles are also prohibited.
Bison, pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs, deer, cougars, coyotes, bald eagles, and wild Nokota horses can be found throughout the park. The North and South Units are surrounded by a 7-foot tall woven wire fence to keep the bison and wild horses from wandering onto private land, and to keep privately-owned cattle out. Other wildlife, such as deer, elk, and antelope are able to pass through the fence at several points.
THE SOUTH UNIT
The South Unit’s southern boundary stretches approximately 12 miles along US Hwy 94. The Little Missouri River winds northward through this 46,158-acre section, which is covered with scenic outlooks, hiking trails, and even a petrified forest. The southeast portion of the parcel is home to the Painted Canyon visitors center, while the main South Unit Visitors Center is near the southwest portion, in the tiny town of Madora, ND (pop. 129).
THE NORTH UNIT
The North Unit is a 68-mile drive from Medora. The entrance is located at the extreme eastern end of this 24,070-acre section of the park. The North Unit is bisected by the Little Missouri River, traveling west to east through the Dakota Badlands, making for beautiful vistas from any of the overlooks. This is the best place to try and get a glimpse of Bighorn sheep. The Park’s herd of Longhorn steers are also here, as a tribute to the ranching industry of the Dakota Badlands.
THE ELKHORN UNIT
The tiny 218-acre Elkhorn Unit protects the abandoned site of Teddy Roosevelt’s long-time ranch home. This remote area has no amenities; it can only be accessed by a 35-mile trip on steep gravel roads in a four-wheel drive vehicle—a trip that can take 90 minutes or more. Here, you can stand by the foundation stones of Theodore Roosevelt’s beloved old homestead, and gaze over the Little Missouri River at the same scene he described in Hunting Trips of a Ranchman:
“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 for, gazing sleepily out at the weird-looking buttes opposite, until their sharp outlines grow indistinct and purple in the after-glow of the sunset."
The History Of The Theodore Roosevelt National Park
1919: Shortly after Roosevelt’s death, Sylvane Ferris, a partner and early friend of the late President during his ranching days, worked to have a portion of the Badlands around his former ranch made into a memorial park.
1921: The North Dakota state legislature instructs the state’s Senators and Congressmen to work on getting the government to set aside land in the Badlands as a park.
1924: A group of 40 men tour the area on horseback to map out possible boundaries for the park. The Roosevelt Memorial National Park Association was formed to pursue the idea.
1925: A large group of Congressmen, state, and regional officials were taken on a camping tour of the area by local cowhands. An early plan for a 2,030 square-mile park was scrapped due to the value of the land to ranchers. It would have been too expensive to buy them out.
1928: A Park Service official writes a report against establishing a National Park in the area, suggesting a small monument instead.
1934: The Roosevelt Regional Park Project begins. The Dakotas had suffered through their own version of the Dust Bowl, as drought destroyed overworked farmland and ranchland. The Federal government’s Relocation Agency had purchased the devastated lands from the owners for as little as $2.00 an acre, and helped them resettle elsewhere. The Federal government planned to let the area revert back to its wild state and hand it to North Dakota as a state park. The Civilian Conservation Corps builds roads, trails, and campsites in what is now the South Unit and North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
1935: These campsites and hiking trails are designated the Roosevelt Recreation Demonstration Area.
1941: With WWII looming, all work on the park was halted.
1942: The state of North Dakota announces that it does not want the area as a state park. Work begins to find a way to integrate the area into the National Park System, again, against the wishes of Park Service officials.
1946: A bill to make the area a national park is vetoed by President Truman, on the grounds that it didn’t meet the criteria for inclusion in the National Park System. The recreational area is transferred to the Fish and Wildlife Service as the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge.
1947: Truman signs a compromise bill establishing what is not the South and Elkhorn Units as the Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park. The park was the first and only memorial National Park.
1948: The North Unit is added to the Park.
1978: President Jimmy Carter signs a bill to rename the park the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The bill also set aside 29,920 acres of the park as National Wilderness to protect native wildlife by prohibiting development of any sort.
The Theodore Roosevelt National Park is literally a place where “the buffalo roam, and the deer and the antelope play.” It preserves the wilderness of the Dakota Badlands from destruction by commercial development, even as fracking wells tapping into the Bakken Shale deposits edge ever-closer.
Add the 2016 5 oz ATB Theodore Roosevelt National Park Silver Coin to your collection today.