Sunday, July 7, 2013

Trackin' Bakken & Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND

After saying our goodbyes to captivating Montana, Spencer, Ellie and I headed east to North Dakota, a state known for its storied history of Theodore Roosevelt, desolate lands and its recent oil boom, a modern-day gold rush. 

Spencer, who has been following the rise of "fracking" the way a preteen follows the boom of One Direction (read: grossly invested), has been anticipating our North Dakota visit since we left on our RV adventure. Actually, it may have been the reason for the RV adventure. For those not as informed as Spencer, hydraulic fracturing or fracking is a technique used to extract gas and oil from shale rock found underneath the ground. A high-pressured water, sand and chemical mixture is aimed at the rock to release gas into the oil well. 

National Geographic has a helpful video if you want to know more about the Bakken, the oil reserves that cover North Dakota, Montana and Canada. Fracking is both popular and controversial -- seen by some as a way to drive down gas prices and increase America's oil independence; others worry about the chemicals injected in the shale contaminating groundwater and the large cost of water used in the extraction method. 

We stationed our RV in Dickinson, a small city a couple hours from the epicenter of the state's fracking in Williston. Since many residents work in the oil industry or ancillary fields, Dickinson has seen similar effects to Williston, like a housing crisis where companies can't build fast enough to accommodate the influx of people. 

Even the Walmart in Williston is so busy that palates are often left loaded in aisles. 

It was pretty incredible to see how fracking has transformed Dickinson, Williston and the rest of North Dakota. Wide open spaces are now filled with "man-camps" to accommodate oil workers.

For perspective, out of more than 100 sites at our campground in Dickinson, we were the only ones visiting for enjoyment and not for work. 

Fortunately, we were also close to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which offers visitors a chance to travel back to the late 1800s when the future president left New York for the rural Dakota Territory to hunt bison and explore the great outdoors. 

We spent the Fourth of July hiking and exploring Theodore Roosevelt National Park, as well as enjoying holiday festivities happening in Medora, the little town outside the park.

Teddy Roosevelt, known as the Conservationist President, formed many of the ideals that would define his future policies during his time in present day North Dakota. He said:

"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 marred." 

Although Roosevelt arrived in North Dakota to "bag a buffalo," he had trouble finding bison to hunt. Thousands had been killed by commercial hunters. Spencer and I didn't have the same trouble finding bison to shoot -- only with a camera instead of a rifle.

Roosevelt ended up launching a cattle ranching operation in the area before leaving for New York. However, tragedy drew Roosevelt back to North Dakota after both his wife and mother passed away on the same day. It was Valentine's Day 1884. 

In his diary, he drew a large "X" and wrote only: “The light has gone out of my life.”

In order to recover from these painful events, Roosevelt returned to the Maltese Cross Ranch. He commissioned a cabin, which is now on display at the park. With three separate rooms, it was considered a mansion by cabin standards.

The land and the ranch work healed Roosevelt, and without his experiences in North Dakota, he said he would have never been President. Spencer and I couldn't imagine a more appropriate environment to spend celebrating America's independence. 

I understand why Roosevelt felt so drawn to North Dakota: grit. Maybe it's the sub-zero winters or the boiling hot summers, maybe it's the history of handiwork, but North Dakota has resolve. 

We capped off our Fourth of July watching fireworks in the Dickinson State University parking lot. It was the perfect end to our time in North Dakota. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog design by Ready to Blog. Powered by Blogger.