53 Super Facts for Your Super Bowl Party

Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images
Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images

Want to be the smartest person in the room at this year's Super Bowl party? Bust out a few of these fun facts about Big Games past.

1.

plate of chicken wings
iStock.com/bhofack2

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Super Bowl Sunday is America's "second-largest food consumption day." (Only Thanksgiving Day beats it.)

2.

Lady Gaga Halftime Show
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

A persistent rumor says that sewage systems in major cities occasionally fail during Super Bowl halftimes, because a large volume of people supposedly all flush their toilets simultaneously. Don't worry! There's absolutely no evidence to support this claim.

3.

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Peyton Manning is the only starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different teams: the Indianapolis Colts in 2007 and the Denver Broncos in 2016.

4.

Phil Simms is going to Disney World
Allsport/Getty Images

Phil Simms was paid $75,000 to shout "I'm going to Disney World” on the field moments after his Giants won Super Bowl XXI. Disney also paid Denver’s John Elway the same amount of money to yell the same thing—just in case his team won.

5.

Mewelde Moore #21 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates holds up the Vince Lombardi trophy as he celebrates with his daughter Jalyn Chantelle after their 27-23 win against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009
Jamie Squire, Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers hold the record for most Super Bowl wins, having captured six Vince Lombardi Trophies. The San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, and New England Patriots have each won five.

6.

 Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks passes as Wesley Woodyard #52 of the Denver Broncos defends during Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014
Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images

Which team has lost the most? That would be a tie between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, who've each dropped five Super Bowl matchups.

7.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

A 2014 Change.org petition to "Have Weird Al Yankovic Headline the Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show" received more than 100,000 signatures.

8.

A fan holds up a ticket to Super Bowl 50 outside Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.
Andy Lyons, Getty Images

The priciest tickets to Super Bowl I, which was played on January 15, 1967, cost $12. Adjusted for inflation, that's the equivalent of about $89 today. And even at that bargain price, the event still didn't sell out. If you're thinking about buying tickets for this year's event, you'd better be prepared to shell out at least $2300 per ticket (at press time). 

9.

Jimmy Carter greets the Pittsburgh Steelers, 1980
The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum

In 1980, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the first Super Bowl-winning team to visit the White House. They visited with Jimmy Carter in a joint ceremony with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had won the 1979 World Series.

10.

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

When Jacksonville, Florida, hosted Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005, the city didn't have enough hotel rooms to meet the NFL's requirements. So in their bid to serve as the Big Game's host, they had to recruit five docked cruise ships as "floating hotels" for the event.

11.

Joe Namath
Elsa/Getty Images

Maryland sports fans must have really hated the Big Apple in 1969. On January 12 of that year, the New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Nine months later, the New York Mets prevailed over the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles in the '69 World Series.

12.

iStock

The Super Bowl I halftime show consisted of two marching bands, acclaimed trumpeter Al Hirt, two men in jet packs, and 300 pigeons.

13.

Joe Montana and Dan Marino
DOUG COLLIER/AFP/Getty Images

Western Pennsylvania is quarterback country. Six Hall of Fame QBs hail from this region, five of whom (Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and Jim Kelly) played in at least one Super Bowl each as quarterbacks. The sixth, George Blanda, competed as a placekicker in Super Bowl II.

14.

Doug Benc/Getty Images

In odd-numbered Super Bowls, the NFC team is the designated "home" team while AFC teams enjoy that honor during the even-numbered Super Bowls.

15.

M*A*S*H
Keystone/Getty Images

In 1983, 105.97 million people tuned in to the final episode of M*A*S*H, making it the most-watched TV broadcast in American history. It took more than a quarter-century, but in February 2010, Super Bowl XLIV finally broke that record when 106.5 million people watched the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts. Subsequent Super Bowls have broken even that record, with Super Bowl XLIX—which was played on February 1, 2015—currently holding the top spot, with 114.4 million viewers on average.

16.

Getty Images

In Las Vegas, more than $115 million is (legally) bet on the Super Bowl every year.

17.

Chuck Howley
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Although the Baltimore Colts beat Dallas in Super Bowl V in 1971, Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley was named the game's MVP. He's the only player in history to earn this honor as a member of the losing team.

18.

Former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan
Tom Hauck /Allsport

The Vince Lombardi Trophies—a new one of which is handed out every year—are made by Tiffany & Co. out of sterling silver.

19.

Super Bowl blackout (Superdome 2013)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

A power outage at New Orleans's Superdome put Super Bowl XLVII on hold for 34 minutes.

20.

Super Bowl 50
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

A fresh layer of high-quality, natural sod is installed on the field prior to each Super Bowl played on natural grass. For Super Bowl 50, the company West Coast Turf harvested 75,000 square feet of premium grass on the NFL’s behalf.

21.

Giants Super Bowl XLII victory parade
Al Bello/Getty Images

In 2008, then-Boston Mayor Thomas Menino lost a high-stakes bet to his Gotham counterpart when the Giants upset the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Because of New England's defeat, Menino had to send a truckload of Massachusetts delicacies—including 42 pounds of Dunkin' Donuts coffee (because it was the 42nd Super Bowl) and 12 dozen Boston cream pies (a reference to Tom Brady's number)—to New York City, where the food was donated to charity.

22.

Jim McMahon, Super Bowl XX
Getty Images North America

A few days before Super Bowl XX in 1986, Bears QB Jim McMahon mooned a TV news helicopter that was flying over one of Chicago's practice sessions.

23.

NFL logo
Tom Hauck/Staff/Getty Images

There has never been a shutout in the Super Bowl. The Miami Dolphins hold the record for fewest points scored in a Super Bowl; in 1972, they lost to Dallas, 24-3.

24.

Pats overtime TD
Elsa/Getty Images

Super Bowl LI was the first one to ever go into overtime. The Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28.

25.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Super Bowl XLV was the first one in history that didn't include cheerleaders. That's because neither of the game's participating teams—the Pittsburgh Steelers nor the Green Bay Packers—has a professional cheerleading squad.

26.

Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Cleveland is the only current NFL city that has neither hosted a Super Bowl nor seen its own team, the Browns, make an appearance in one.

27.

football on field
iStock.com/tomazl

During Super Bowl I in 1967, NBC was still in commercial when the second half kicked off. Officials asked the Packers to kick off again.

28.

Dan Witkowski

The 1989 Super Bowl halftime show was broadcast in 3D (a novelty for the time). In it, a magician dressed like Elvis Presley ("Elvis Presto") had the entire stadium participate in a round of the classic “Is this your card?” trick.

29.

dog catching frisbee
iStock.com/Mordolff

Another unusual spectacle was the 1977 Super Bowl pre-game show, which included a Frisbee-catching dog named Ashley Whippet.

30.

Lisa Simpson Predicts Super Bowl XXVI
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Springfield's resident wunderkind really knows her football. In an episode of The Simpsons which aired on January 23, 1992, Lisa correctly guessed that Washington would beat Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVI, which was played three days later.

31.

Titans fan Al Gore
LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images

No sitting president has ever attended a Super Bowl. However, four sitting vice presidents—Spiro Agnew, George H.W. Bush, Al Gore, and Mike Pence—have made Big Game appearances.

32.

Getty Images

From 1985 to 1997, the NFC won 13 straight Super Bowls. During that streak, the NFC clubs outscored their AFC opponents by a cumulative score of 490-219.

33.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum

While celebrating the Giants' Super Bowl XXI victory with President Reagan at the White House, linebacker Harry Carson emptied a Gatorade tub of popcorn over the Gipper's head.

34.

George Rose/Getty Images

On San Francisco's Super Bowl XXIII game-winning drive in 1989, Joe Montana saw a celebrity spectator; in mid-huddle, he nonchalantly asked his teammates, "Hey, isn't that John Candy over there?"

35.

RICK RUNION/AFP/Getty Images

On Super Bowl Media Day in 2000, a reporter asked Titans defensive tackle Joe Salave'a, "What's your relationship with the football?" He replied: "I'd say it's strictly platonic."

36.

TONY RANZE/AFP/Getty Images

Back-to-back Super Bowl victories aren't as rare as you might think. The Packers, Dolphins, 49ers, Cowboys, Broncos, Patriots, and Steelers have all pulled off this feat. In fact, Pittsburgh has won back-to-back Super Bowls on two separate occasions.

37.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

The Wonder Years, Family Guy, and Undercover Boss all premiered immediately after the Super Bowl.

38.

Mike Powell/Getty Images

The 1985 Bears recorded a hit rap song called "Super Bowl Shuffle," which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. (It lost to Prince & the Revolution's "Kiss.")

39.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Joe Montana not only emerged victorious from all four of his Super Bowl appearances, he did it without throwing a single interception in any of those games.

40.

Super Bowl streaker
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Just before the second-half kickoff in the 2004 Super Bowl, a man disguised as a referee stripped down to a G-string and streaked across the field. Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham was able to knock him to the ground, enabling security to apprehend the hooligan.

41.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In 2010, Super Bowl XLIV featured an unusual piece of memorabilia: The coin that was flipped right before the game had previously spent 11 days orbiting the Earth on a NASA space mission.

42.

Otter!!
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

For the past several years, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, has hosted an annual Otter Bowl on Super Bowl Sunday, where a group of these adorable mammals play around with a football while a staffer narrates the action. The event is not taking place in 2019, though. The halting of the popular game is so that the aquarium and its visitors can pay tribute to Brook, a popular sea otter resident who recently passed away following a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Brook was 21 years old.

43.

Super Bowl QB Tom Brady
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The New England Patriots' Tom Brady has currently won five Super Bowls, more than any other starting quarterback. Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana won four apiece.

44.

referee calling a touchdown
iStock.com/groveb

The very first Super Bowl touchdown was scored in 1967 by Packers wide receiver Max McGee (who was hungover at the time). 

45.

Bob Levey/Getty Images

Super Bowl bonuses are a thing. In 2017, every player on the Pats' championship roster earned $107,000 for winning. The defeated Falcons received $53,000 each as a consolation prize.

46.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Two colleges have produced three Super Bowl-winning starting quarterbacks: the University of Alabama (Bart Starr, Joe Namath, and Ken Stabler) and Purdue University (Len Dawson, Bob Griese, and Drew Brees).

47.

Green Bay Packers defensive linemen Willie Davis (left) and Henry Jordan (right) tackle Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson (middle) in Super Bowl I.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The event we now call the "Super Bowl" originally went by a duller name: "The AFL-NFL World Championship Game." Although "Super Bowl" has been used unofficially since the very first game, the term wasn't officially recognized by the league until a few years later, with the name first appearing on the cover of the program in 1969 and on the ticket in 1970.

48.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

In 2013, 40 years after winning Super Bowl VII, the famous perfect-season Miami Dolphins were invited to the White House by Barack Obama.

49.

Don Shula
JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images

As Don Shula was being carried off the field after the Dolphins' Super Bowl win in 1973, a fan reached up to shake his hand—and stole his watch.

50.

Al Bello/Allsport/Getty Images

During the 1995-1996 season, some proxy servers blocked the Super Bowl website because it was Super Bowl XXX.

51.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Hunter S. Thompson covered Super Bowls VII and VIII for Rolling Stone.

52.

Michael Jackson Super Bowl Halftime 1993
Mike Powell/Allsport/Getty Images

In 1993, Michael Jackson's halftime performance had higher ratings than the game itself.

53.

Tom Brady at the Super Bowl
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In 2017, Tom Brady became the second oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl at age 39—he beat John Elway, who won one at age 38 in 1999, but was just short of Peyton Manning's 2016 record. Manning was 134 days older for his final win than Brady was for his (though, if the Patriots beat the Rams at Super Bowl LIII, Brady's 41 years will make him the oldest quarterback to win).

The 25 Best Colleges in America

Vasyl Dolmatov/iStock via Getty Images
Vasyl Dolmatov/iStock via Getty Images

The college decision process is always a tough one, but review site Niche's annual rankings of the best colleges in America make it easier for prospective students (and their parents) to narrow down the choices to find the best fit. The 2020 list takes a variety of factors into account, including student life, admissions, finances, and student reviews. But the most important factor in their methodology, comprising 40 percent of a school's overall rating, is academics, which, according to the Niche website, looks at "acceptance rate, quality of professors, as well as student and alumni surveys regarding academics at the school."

Taking the number one spot on Niche's list for the second year in a row is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed by Stanford University in the number two spot (again, for the second year in a row). Six of America's eight Ivy League schools made it into the top 10.

Here are the 25 Best Colleges in America for 2020, according to Niche's rankings.

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology // Cambridge, MA

  1. Stanford University // Stanford, CA

  1. Yale University // New Haven, CT

  1. Harvard University // Cambridge, MA

  1. Princeton University // Princeton, NJ

  1. Duke University // Durham, NC

  1. Brown University // Providence, RI

  1. Columbia University // New York, NY

  1. University of Pennsylvania // Philadelphia, PA

  1. Rice University // Houston, TX

  1. Northwestern University // Evanston, IL

  1. Vanderbilt University // Nashville, TN

  1. Pomona College // Claremont, CA

  1. Washington University in St. Louis // St. Louis, MO

  1. Dartmouth College // Hanover, NH

  1. California Institute of Technology // Pasadena, CA

  1. University of Notre Dame // Notre Dame, IN

  1. University of Chicago // Chicago, IL

  1. University of Southern California // Los Angeles, CA

  1. Cornell University // Ithaca, NY

  1. Bowdoin College // Brunswick, ME

  1. Amherst College // Amherst, MA

  1. University of Michigan // Ann Arbor, MI

  1. Georgetown University // Washington DC

  1. Tufts University // Medford, MA

12 Facts About Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Two bison grazing in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Two bison grazing in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
scgerding/iStock via Getty Images Plus

The only U.S. national park named after a person—America's 26th presidentTheodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) was established in North Dakota by Harry S. Truman in 1947. The park honors Roosevelt, who lived as a ranchman in the Dakota Territory in the 1880s and, as president, conserved 230 million acres of public land for future generations. Read on for things to do and see, plus what to know before you go camping, in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

1. The plans for Theodore Roosevelt National Park began not long after Roosevelt’s death in 1919.

Medora, North Dakota, was chosen as the site of the memorial, and in 1921, the state’s legislature asked its reps in Congress to help set aside land for that purpose. One early proposal called for a park of more than 2000 acres, but that was controversial—the land was valuable to ranchers. Some believed a national monument was more appropriate than a national park.

Then, in the 1930s, drought and overgrazing led many homesteaders to abandon their land, which they sold to the federal government; some of those lands were set aside to create a park. In 1935, the land—which was in a north unit and a south unit—became the Roosevelt Recreation Demonstration Area, and in 1946, it was taken over by the Fish and Wildlife Service and became the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge.

On April 25, 1947, President Harry Truman signed the bill that created Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park; at that time, the land included the South Unit and the site of Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch. The North Unit of the park was added the next year. Finally, in 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a law that changed the memorial park to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. In 2018, it received nearly 750,000 visitors.

2. Before the land became Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Native Americans hunted in the area.

A flint spearpoint and other projectiles from the Archaic Culture (5500 BCE to 500 CE) have been found in the park, as have artifacts from the Plains Woodland Tradition (1 to 1200 CE) and pre-Columbian peoples. Though one of the pre-Columbian sites includes a bison processing camp (or what remains of it), there was no permanent occupation of the area of that time, according to the park’s website.

There are a number of sites from what the website calls the Historic Period, which lasted from 1742 to the 1880s, and included artifacts like “stone rings, a rock cairn, and four conical, timbered lodges. Two of the lodges, presumably used by men engaged in seasonal eagle trapping, are still standing today … One archaeological interpretation indicated that the use of the badlands for hunting, gathering, and spiritual pursuits, though undertaken by numerous cultures and groups over millennia, had not significantly changed over that entire time span.” The Mandan and Hidatsa, among many other Native tribes, hunted in the area, and the lands have spiritual significance for some tribes as well.

3. Theodore Roosevelt National Park contains 70,488 acres.

The park is spread over three units. The South Unit, which is located in Medora off I-94, is its most visited area. The North Unit, 50 miles off the same highway, is more remote. Both units have scenic drives—though the drive in the South Unit is currently closed due to slumping—and hiking trails. The South Unit also has a petrified forest with a 10.3-mile trail.

The third unit of the park is its smallest, and very out of the way: The roads leading to the Elkhorn Ranch Unit are unpaved and sometimes require four-wheel drive. No roads go directly to the site to preserve the solitude TR would have felt living there, so getting to the site requires a bit of a walk along a mowed pathway.

4. Visitors to Theodore Roosevelt National Park can see the future president’s Maltese Cross ranch house.

Theodore Roosevelt's Maltese Cross Ranch Cabin in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Theodore Roosevelt's Maltese Cross Ranch Cabin.
Erin McCarthy

When Theodore Roosevelt first came to the Dakota Badlands to hunt bison in 1883, he stayed with some cattle ranchers and decided to invest in a ranch himself. Before he left, he invested $14,000 into Maltese Cross Ranch. The cabin was built seven miles outside of Medora, and it was unusual for the area: While most houses were made of sod, Roosevelt’s ranch was made of ponderosa pine. It had a singled, pitched roof, which created an upper half-story where his ranch hands could sleep. There were three rooms (a kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom for TR), and white-washed walls.

The cabin got new owners in 1900, and after Roosevelt became president, it went on tour: It could be seen at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, then to Portland, Oregon, for the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. For a time, it sat in Fargo, North Dakota, and then on the state capital grounds in Bismarck. Finally, in 1959, the cabin came back to what was, by then, Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park. Today, it can be found in the South Unit of the Park behind the Visitor’s Center.

The building is mostly original; the roof and shingles were removed at one point and have been restored. Inside, visitors can see several authentic Roosevelt artifacts, including a traveling trunk with “T.R.” on the top and a hutch.

5. Visitors to Theodore Roosevelt National Park can go out to the site where Roosevelt’s second ranch house once stood.

A gate in front of the site of Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch site.
A gate in front of the site of Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch site.
Erin McCarthy

In 1884, Roosevelt decided to abandon politics after the deaths of his wife and mother and settle at his ranch in the Dakotas permanently. But his Maltese Cross cabin was located on a popular route into Medora, and people were always stopping by. Grieving and seeking solitude, Roosevelt rode out to a site 35 miles north of Medora that had been recommended to him.

On the site, Roosevelt found the skulls of two elk, their horns interlocked, and named what he would come to refer to as his Home Ranch in their honor. He bought the rights to the site for $400; his nearest neighbors were at least 10 miles away.

Two friends of Roosevelt’s from Maine, Bill Sewall and Wilmont Dow, came to the Dakotas and built the 30-by-60-foot house of cottonwood pine; it had 7-foot high walls, eight rooms, and a veranda. Also on the site was a barn, a blacksmith’s shop, a cattle shed, and a chicken coop.

In Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, Roosevelt wrote:

“My home ranch-house stands on the river brink. 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."

But the cattle business was not meant to be Roosevelt’s future. He eventually returned to New York, and after a hard winter where he lost 60 percent of his herd, he sold the ranch in 1898. By 1901—the year Roosevelt became president—the ranch was gone. A local said that all that remained was “a couple of half-rotted foundations."

Today, visitors to TRNP can take a scenic drive on gravel roads, then hike three-eighths of a mile to the Elkhorn site, located between the Little Missouri River and black, white, and yellow Badlands bluffs. There, they can stand on the foundation stones that mark where TR’s Home Ranch once stood, listening to the birds, insects, and low mooing of cattle, as he would have done. (They might even encounter a cow or two on the trail!)

6. More than 185 species of birds have been spotted in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The black and brown Spotted Towhee in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.
Spotted Towhee in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Wildnerdpix/iStock via Getty Images Plus

They include bald and golden eagles, blue-winged teal, American wigeon, turkey vultures, prairie and peregrine falcons, and the sage grouse. The park has a handy checklist [PDF] to help visitors keep track of the birds they’ve seen.

Birds aren’t the only animals you might see: TRNP is also home to elk, prairie dogs, pronghorns, feral horses, big horn sheep, coyotes, badgers, beavers, porcupines, mule deer, longhorn steers, rattlesnakes, and bison.

7. There are hundreds of bison in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Whether you call them bison or buffalo (though Americans use the terms interchangeably, there is a difference!), you’ll have a chance to see plenty of them at TRNP. Both the north and south units have herds—200 to 400 animals in the south and 100 to 300 in the north. Full-grown bison bulls can stand up to 6 feet tall and weigh up to 2000 pounds, so visitors should give them a wide berth or risk getting charged and possibly gored.

The American bison (Bison bison) was once critically endangered and nearly went extinct. (Roosevelt was one person who was instrumental in saving the species from extinction.) The animals were reintroduced into the park in 1956. Because all of the living bison are descended from a small number of animals, monitoring the genetic diversity of the herd is important. Every couple of years in October, park staff round up the animals in both units by using helicopters to herd them into progressively smaller enclosures. Eventually, each animal ends up in a squeeze shoot, where staff takes hair (for DNA analysis) and blood (to test for disease) samples and weighs and measures the animals. Bison born since the last roundup are given tags and microchips so they can be tracked.

8. Theodore Roosevelt National Park has a few prairie dog towns.

Two black-tailed prairie dogs coming out of a burrow in the ground.
Two black-tailed prairie dogs coming out of a burrow in the ground in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
RONSAN4D/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Black-tailed prairie dogs are abundant in TRNP. Roosevelt himself described them as “in shape like little woodchucks,” and called them “the most noisy and inquisitive animals imaginable.” Visitors can see the first of many prairie dog towns in the park near the Skyline Vista trail.

9. In prehistoric times, Theodore Roosevelt National Park was home to a Champsosaurus.

Fifty-five million years ago, during the Paleocene Epoch, North Dakota—including the area of TRNP—was a swamp, and in that swamp lived a reptile called Champsosaurus. The animal looked like modern-day crocodilians called gharials and could measure nearly 10 feet long.

10. You can go camping in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

There are three campgrounds in TNRP, but visitors just can’t drive in and set up a tent—reservations must be made, fees must be paid, and, in some cases, permits are required to camp in the park.

Camping isn't the only thing you can do in the park: It's also possible to canoe or kayak down the Little Missouri River if the water is deep enough.

11. The colors of the rocks in Theodore Roosevelt National Park tell a story.

A rock formation in Theodore Roosevelt National Park with gray, yellow, and light colored-layers.
hartmanc10/iStock via Getty Images Plus

The massive and unusual formations in TRNP, created by erosion over millions of years, are awe-inspiring—and you can tell a lot about them from the colors of their layers [PDF]. Brown and tan layers indicate sandstone, siltstone, and mudstone, which came from the Rocky Mountains, while blue-gray is bentonite clay laid down by the ash of far-away volcanic eruptions. (The clay can absorb up to five times its weight in liquid, which is why it’s used in … kitty litter.)

Black is a layer of coal, and red is the delightfully named clinker, which is formed when coal veins catch fire and cook the rock above it. Locally, the red rock is called scoria, but clinker is its scientific name.

One coal vein located in the park caught fire in 1951 and burned for 26 years. Apparently, visitors could roast marshmallows over the fire, which finally burned out in 1977. Fires in the Badlands aren’t unusual; they can be caused by lightning strikes or even set purposefully to reduce hazards or benefit certain species.

12. There are a number of interesting historic sites near Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

While you’re in the area, check out the Chateau de Mores—the mansion that was home to a French marquis who dreamed of bringing a cattle-slaughtering business to Medora—and the Von Hoffman House. And don’t miss the Medora Musical, a variety show held in an open-air amphitheater that features the history of the town’s most famous and infamous figures—plus an appearance by the president who once called the area his home.

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