Plein Air Painting in NorthDakota 
Part 2 - The Badlands

Medora and the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park - Day 3, North Dakota

After a night of heavy rain we awoke to a beautiful fresh morning in Medora.  After all the driving we did the day before we looked forward to a lot less time behind the wheel and a lot of time behind our easels plein air painting in the Southern Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota.  The park entrance was right around the corner from our hotel.  We asked the Park Ranger what his favorite place was in the park.  He said "Wind Canyon - about 6 miles away" .  Wasting no time, we made our way to Wind Canyon.  On the way there we encountered one lone plein air painter - we stopped and said hello - turns out he was from Sacramento, California!  Us California folks are so restless. 

Wind Canyon and the Little Missouri River

We parked at Wind Canyon and took the Nature trail - within 100 yards we came to a ridge that overlooks Wind Canyon and the Little Missouri River valley.  A fabulous spot!  We hiked up to the top of the ridge and set up our easels for the morning.  We had a light breeze, the smell of sage in the air and sunshine.  Total perfection!  Here is a short video I shot before I started painting that morning to give you a 360 degree view of what we had to work with - lucky us!

Wind Canyon Video



Here is the painting I did from Wind Canyon.

Underground coal seam burning and weird geology

After our morning painting we had a brief lunch and then set out on a hike.  We could see how the underground coal seams had burnt out and left behind scoria - a red fired clay - Underground seams of coal had caught fire eons ago and continue to burn out of sight to this day.  This activity creates slumps and landslides all over the park and makes for a very dynamic and changing landscape. 

Buck Hill Overlook - Evening Painting - Classic Badlands Landscape

We decided on Buck Hill to see if we could paint the classic Badlands landscape from this spot.  It was a very difficult and challenging subject.  I started one painting then 30 minutes in I wiped it out and started over.  One of the joys of oil paint - just scrape it off and start again. 

Here is the crazy painting I did that evening - I decided to call it "Breaking Bad in the Badlands"  and it was a lot of fun and very liberating.  While I was painting I made the observation that all the strange triangular hills and buttes there only have trees or green shrubs growing on their North sides.  The south facing slopes are too dry and get a lot more sun.  If lost in the Badlands, one could use the landscape to find true North. Prints and cards of this image available.

We finished painting at 7pm.  We had been beseiged by gnats (swarms of them) and mosquitoes.  Luckily we had brought our Deet insect repellent - otherwise painting at dusk in that place would have been impossible.  On our way back into town for dinner we encountered a large and healthy herd of bison on and near the road.

Dinner at The Rough Rider Hotel - Medora, North Dakota

We had a really good (but expensive) dinner at the Rough Rider Hotel in Medora.  An excellent meal of wild salmon cooked to perfection with crisp young veggies and a salad of fresh beets.  We toasted our amazing day of painting and adventure with a nice glass of Chardonnay. This was our last evening in North Dakota before heading south to paint at Devil's Tower in Wyoming and then onto South Dakota to paint in the Black Hills area.  Thank you North Dakota!  You are beautiful!

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