WATFORD CITY, N.D. (AP) — The visitor center in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park is being closed because of unstable soil, with the center's functions being moved to a cottage at the unit's campground.
Heavy rains in recent years have led to ground shifting that has caused the building to move and sink, Park Superintendent Valerie Naylor said. It will be shut down by July 17.
"Badlands soils are notoriously unstable, and this is an extremely unfortunate consequence of natural processes," she said.
Average annual precipitation in the North Unit is less than 15 inches. Annual rainfall from 2009-2012 surpassed 21 inches, and in the first half of this year the unit has had more than 17 inches of precipitation.
The visitor center was built in 1991. In 2002 it had to be raised, repaired and stabilized. In 2011 it shifted again. Naylor said interior walls are moving and cracking and the floor is buckling, and it is unlikely that the building can be repaired this time.
"It is a beautiful building and we are deeply saddened to abandon it, but the safety of visitors and staff is our top priority," she said.
The park is the western North Dakota Badlands. It has both a North Unit and a South Unit, about 40 miles apart. About 130,000 people visit the North Unit every year, with about 20,000 of them stopping at the visitor center.
Rangers will continue to greet visitors at the park entrance station when the visitor center functions are moved to Camptender's Cottage at Juniper Campground. A new visitor center eventually will be planned and built in a more stable location, Naylor said.