Upper Caprock Coullee

Location: Roosevelt National Park, North Unit, western North Dakota
Access: From Watford City, drive 16 miles south on Hwy 85. Just prior to crossing the Little Missouri River, watch for a signed road on the right that leads shortly to the park.
Trail: Easy, 3.5-mile loop through dry gulches and atop higher mesas
Map: Park trail map
Fees: $10/vehicle/7-day pass
Dogs: Not allowed on trails

July 25, 2007
Joe and I were on a work trip in Watford City. After a week of temperatures over 100 degrees (in North Dakota??) the clouds rolled in and grounded the airplane. Seeing that the day was shot, we decided to drive south a ways to check out Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I have to admit I had never heard of it before we arrived in North Dakota, but was anxious to check it out. We paid the entrance fee at the front gate, and drove on down the single road, stopping here and there at the various pullouts. We decided on hiking a little at the Caprock Coullee Trail. The beginning of the trail lead right into a gulch flanked by colorful clay dunes, each decorated with fluted rills and bulges. Layers of horizontal strata in varying shades of tan, red and purple contrasted starkly with each other. The second part of the trail lead uphill through a forest of small deciduous trees, many of them with brown, crispy leaves. We saw a couple of owls just off the trail, and millions of devilish biting black flies. I watched the trail closely to avoid walking through or near the abundant poison ivy. The trail left the forest and lead out onto a grassy mesa with a nice view of the surrounding gulches and draws, all with their own colorful strata. We got sprinkled on a little, but nothing heavy. At this point, we simply turned around and headed back to the trailhead. We had not picked up a trail map, so we had no idea that it probably would have been quicker to continue on with the trail around the loop. That’s what you get for being unprepared. 

Back at the truck, we drove on to the end of the road to the Oxbow Overlook where we enjoyed the scenery and talked at length with a group of 4 cyclists from Alabama who were noting the ferocious black flies. They said even riding wouldn’t get rid of them because they just stuck to the back of legs and arms, out of the wind, happily draining blood from their victims. In fact, all of us continuously slapped our legs and arms as we stood there talking. 

We made a final stop at an overlook of the Little Missouri River where the park had constructed a nice stone and wood structure. The wide, slow current of the Little Missouri moved slowly along down below. 

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