Sullys Hill

National Park

(1904 - 1931)

Pruning the Parks: North Dakota’s Sullys Hill National Park (1904-1931)

National Parks Traveler

Exactly why Teddy Roosevelt chose to make a national park out of this 1.25 square-mile piece of the northern Great Plains (which he never visited) may never be fully explained. TR’s fond recollections of his ranching experiences and frontier adventures in western North Dakota (a story that is told well at Theodore Roosevelt National Park) doubtlessly inclined him toward favorable treatment of North Dakota, a place that few easterners knew or cared about. Some critics have claimed – rather plausibly, it seems -- that Roosevelt’s Sullys Hill Park proclamation was politically motivated. True or not, this particular park concept was ill-conceived and poorly executed.

To say that Sullys Hill National Park was remote and neglected is quite an understatement. In 1909, the Department of the Interior Report on Wind Cave, Crater Lake, Sullys Hill, and Platt National Parks, Casa Grande Ruin and Minnesota National Forest Reserve stated that the park, which was situated at least two miles from the nearest riverboat landing, had no decent road access, no buildings or improvements, no budget, and no staff. An official from the nearby Fort Totten Indian School was keeping an eye on the property, but that was about it. Annual visitation was estimated at about 50 campers and perhaps 200 day-trippers.