Today Medora's primary attraction continues to be its natural setting. The quarter-mile-high wall of clay buttes that guards the town's rear is merely an introduction to some of the nation's most bizarre terrain. French explorers dubbed it les mauvaise terres a traverser bad lands to cross. The Sioux term for the area, mako shika, means land of no good. Alfred Sully was even more vehement: he described the surrounding 8,square-mile section of rugged and spectacular country as ''hell with the fires out. In a sense, General Sully was right.
Thinking small, staying big
But most of the scenery has a lulling sameness. Suddenly you gasp. These are the Badlands, whose remote and moody geography seems a spectacularly unlikely setting for a long-running stage show, let alone one that attracts an average of nearly 1, people each night. But such is the curious phenomenon of the Medora Musical , a spangled summertime revue performed in an amphitheater carved into the side of a butte, with the Badlands as its backdrop.
Participants in a public dig near Dickinson, N. By Hillary Richard. On a blisteringly hot June day in the North Dakota Badlands, there are very few signs of life outside of birds, snakes and wandering livestock. The landscape is tall, stark and punishing, with loose rocks to trip you and serrated cliffs to cut you when you fall. Conical peaks rise from the ground, each striated layer full of potential discovery. This was once a land of savannas and plains, with rivers and lakes. Unrecognizable creatures — with disproportionate limbs, spikes, shells, horns, unfathomable teeth — roamed freely, feeding on the tall grass and, oftentimes, one another. On this day last summer, I was perched precariously on a steep, uncomfortably jagged mountain ledge that poked sharply even through my kneepads, the flat head of my rock hammer poised over a sharp chisel. The harsh summer sun cast a shadow over my tools, which were anchored in a crevice only millimeters deep.
The musical is a look back at the " Wild West " days of the region and includes references to Theodore Roosevelt , who spent time in western North Dakota ,  including in the nearby Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The musical premiered at the amphitheatre in and is the successor to earlier shows about Roosevelt. Thirty of the thirty-three performances were sold out. Due to waning interest in the following years after its first season Old Four-Eyes was closed in The foundation maintains the amphitheater and historical properties and other projects. The amphitheater was carved out of the side of the badlands in Burning Gulch by local volunteers, cast members and boys from the Home on the Range Ranch. The original theater seated between 1,, and 1, people. It was constructed of wooden benches on the hillside with rustic buildings that formed a set around the stage.