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Camping at Cottonwood Campground National Forest

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Overview of Cottonwood Campground

Cottonwood Campground is one of the two campgrounds located within Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which lies in the rugged badlands of western North Dakota. It is situated in the park's South Unit and is named after the cottonwood trees dotting the area around the Little Missouri River. Due to its location, it offers campers easy access to a wide variety of trails and scenic drives, as well as the opportunity to see American bison, wild horses, and other wildlife.

Camping Information


  • Campsites for both tents and RVs are available, with a limit of six people per site.
  • Each site generally offers a picnic table and a fire ring.
  • Restrooms with flush toilets and running water are typically available.
  • However, there are no hookups for RVs, and the use of generators may be restricted to certain hours.
  • Drinking water is accessible, but campers need to come prepared since there could be limitations on usage, especially in the peak summer months.

Fees and Reservations:

  • There are fees required for camping at Cottonwood Campground, which are typically paid on-site or through a reservation system.
  • The National Park Service (NPS) might adjust fees, and it is advisable to check the current rates before planning your trip.
  • Some spots can be reserved in advance, while others are available on a first-come, first-served basis.


  • Cottonwood Campground is generally open year-round, but accessibility to services like water may be seasonally limited.
  • It is most popular from late spring to early fall, and some facilities may close or reduce hours outside of the peak season.

Rules and Regulations:

  • Stay limits might be imposed, often 14 consecutive days.
  • Quiet hours are usually enforced to ensure a peaceful environment for all campers.
  • Campfires are typically only allowed in designated fire rings, and sometimes there may be fire restrictions in place due to drought conditions.
  • The use of off-road vehicles is prohibited in the campground and elsewhere in the park.

Recreation Opportunities

Hiking and Trails:

  • From the campground, campers have access to an array of trails ranging from short, easy walks to strenuous backcountry hikes.
  • The trailheads for many of these paths are just a short distance away and offer spectacular views of the badlands.

Wildlife Watching:

  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park boasts a rich array of wildlife, including bison, elk, prairie dogs, and feral horses.
  • Campers are advised to observe wildlife from a safe distance and never to feed or approach them.

Visitor Center and Activities:

  • The South Unit Visitor Center is near the campground and provides information on the park, exhibits, and sometimes ranger-led programs.
  • Junior Ranger activities are often available for children.

Getting There

To reach Cottonwood Campground in Theodore Roosevelt National Park's South Unit:

  • The closest town is Medora, ND.
  • Visitors driving should follow the signs off Interstate 94 (exits 24 and 27) that lead directly into the South Unit of the park and the campground.
  • The entrance to the South Unit is approximately 0.5 miles from the town of Medora.

Additional Tips:

  • Weather can vary greatly, with hot summers and cold winters, so come prepared for varying conditions.
  • Cell phone coverage can be unreliable in the park, so plan accordingly.
  • Remember to carry enough supplies and be prepared for the remote nature of the park.
  • It is always best to check with the National Park Service for the most up-to-date information before visiting.

Cottonwood Campground offers an immersive experience in one of America's unique landscapes. Always practice Leave No Trace principles to help preserve the natural beauty and wildlife of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Location of Cottonwood Campground National Forest
Other Campgrounds in Theodore Roosevelt National Park
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