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Guest Blog : Undiscovered Travels in North Dakota – A Memeorable RV Experience

This guest blog comes from our friends at El Monte RV Rentals who invite others to explore North Dakota as they did.

Here’s a great way to produce an eyebrow-arching reaction from your friends: tell them that you’re going to take a trip to North Dakota this year. That’s right, North Dakota – home state of bubbly bandleader Lawrence Welk, zen coaching great Phil Jackson and peppery actress Angie Dickinson, to name just a few famous North Dakotans. Those who think the only thing to do in North Dakota is shovel snow 10 months out of the year would be very surprised to find out just how much fun you can have in our 39th state. And because so many still think this way, you’re not going to find the usual suffocating crowds and long lines that plague so many of the country’s top destinations. So pack your bags, rent an RV and get ready for a memorable and truly relaxing vacation.

Begin your trip in the eastern part of the state with a stop at the Prairie Rose Carousel in Wahpeton, open Memorial Day through Labor Day. Even people without kids will marvel at seeing this fully restored 1926 Spillman model featuring 20 intricately painted wooden horses, two chariots and a calliope – it’s one of only 150 working carousels left in the country. And should you fancy a ride, it’s just $1.50.

From there, it’s a short drive to Bonanzaville in West Fargo. Learn about prairie life in the 1800’s as you stroll through more than 40 restored vintage buildings, including homes, schools, stores, depots and banks. On-site museum collections feature tractors, buggies, medical equipment and aircraft, including a C-47 that was used during the D-Day invasion.

To see an amazing collection of vintage aircraft that still fly, check out the nearby Fargo Air Museum, which features the F4-U Corsair, L 39 Jet, TBM Avenger, P 51 Mustang, Fairchild PT-19A, L 19 Bird dog, Bell Helicopter and “Duggy – the Smile in the Sky” DC 3.

courtesy of National Scenic Byways OnlineNext, drive north to Dunseith to visit the International Peace Garden located on the US-Canadian border. Constructed in 1932 as a symbol of friendship between the two countries, the 2339-acre Peace Garden offers vibrant displays of over 150,000 flowers including an 18-foot floral clock. It’s open year-round but the best views are when the park is at full bloom mid-July through August. Take time to park at one of the campgrounds to hike the surrounding Turtle Mountain forests and do some serious bird watching.

courtesy of National Scenic Byways OnlineAlso worth a stop is nearby Lake Metigoshe State Park, where you can enjoy acres of pristine wilderness, a crisp mountain lake and hike the 3-mile Old Oak Trail, the state’s first Recreation Trail. Here you can experience the rugged beauty of nature while you unplug from life’s day-to-day distractions.

After a day or two of true R&R, you’ll be ready to head back south to Bismarck, the state capital and home to a number of can’t miss historical attractions. The North Dakota Heritage Center museum is open year-round, and documents the entire history of the land from its formation and pre-historic dinosaurs to the western expansion era, Indian encounters and industrial age growth. You can also learn about the U.S.S. North Dakota and other nautical interests in the Hall of Honors section of the Museum.

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the InteriorFamed explorers Lewis and Clark travelled the Missouri River (which is actually longer than the Mississippi) through this part of North Dakota with Indian guide Sakakawea, and their adventures are highlighted at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center next to Fort Mandan, just a short drive from Bismarck. You can try on a buffalo robe, learn about the fur trade and view breathtaking watercolors by Karl Bodmer, regarded as one of the best eyewitness illustrators of Upper Midwest Indian Cultures.

In addition to Fort Mandan, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park located on the west side of the Missouri boasts an impressive array of historical attractions, including reconstructed Indian earth lodges and General George Custer’s last Calvary post and reconstructed home. It was from this fort that he rode out to meet his fate at the hands of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors.

by Mary Brazell, courtesy of National Park Service

The western part of North Dakota is where you’ll find Theodore Roosevelt National Park, a panoramic tribute to our 26th President’s fervent belief in conservation, located near the town of Medora. You can read about the former president’s adventures in his own words and explore his Maltese Cross and Elkhorn ranches, surrounded by the austere beauty of the western badlands. Gain a unique perspective of the area from a saddle –guided horseback tours are available at Peaceful Valley Ranch within the Park.

Wrap up your tour by taking in a performance of the Medora Musical – a rollicking family-friendly entertainment adventure with singing, dancing and even live horses in a show that reflects upon the time Roosevelt spent in the area. The show is performed nightly during the summer months, and includes a mix of modern country, gospel and patriotic songs.

Amusing, restful, historic and panoramic – all very suitable words you can use to describe your journey through the quietly remarkable state of North Dakota.

Joe Laing is the Marketing Director for El Monte RV Rentals.  You can see more great RV vacation ideas in their Monty’s Musings RV Travel Blog and be sure to check out their Camping Pictures


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Flood update from North Dakota Tourism

There is an emergency in Minot, North Dakota right now, along with several communities along the Souris River – for travel information, contact the Minot Convention and Visitors BureauStatewide flood information is available along with travel information from North Dakota’s travel counselors [1-800-435-5663].

Actor Josh Duhamel offers support for his hometown

Concern and support for Minot has been flowing in faster than the Souris, including from Transformers 3 Actor Josh Duhamel who called Minot this morning from Moscow (where he is promoting the new movie).  He also told Entertainment Tonight about how people can donate to the Red Cross efforts in Minot.  How very cool and respectable that this Hollywood Star has such deep North Dakota roots.  Be sure follow Duhamel on Facebook and Twitter.  Watch his call-in with this YouTube clip and his ET interview.

I also found the words written on the Visit Minot blog yesterday to be provoking and inspirational:

Minot is facing one of the most devastating floods the city has ever seen …  The community has come together to help family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and in some cases perfect strangers … We know there is going to be along road ahead of us … But there is no doubt we will make it through this … All it will take is a little Magic.

For travelers wondering about Minot here’s a snapshot of closures:

Additional flood news

While the Souris River makes national headlines in Minot, the Missouri River continues to create additional news throughout the country.  Here in North Dakota, the water level along the Missouri River is stable.  Our friends in Williston report that the swollen river has given Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site a historically authentic experience – as it would have appeared during the times of fur trade.  All visitor experiences are open in Williston.

Lake Sakakawea is certainly at an all-time height.  Water temperatures are rising and reports are trickling in that the walleye bite is warming up as well.  All resorts, campgrounds and boat ramps are open on the big lake.  Check road reports for closures and construction news.

In Washburn, the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center is open, but there are no tours at historic Fort Mandan.  And across the river near Stanton, Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site is also open.

Bismarck-Mandan does have closures at campgrounds and marinas.  There are some road closures and traffic limitations.  Visitors should know that all shopping, dining and most attractions are open including Raging Rivers Waterpark, the Heritage Center, Custer House at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park and many more.  Softball players and their families coming to the Capitol City this weekend for the McQuade’s tournament will have only a few road construction detours to worry about.  The Bismarck Marathon, which will take place September 17, will have a new route.

While there is a no-wake zone along the Missouri River to the headwaters of Lake Oahe (just south of Bismarck-Mandan), fishing continues with many access points in this giant lake.

Along the Little Missouri River – all visitor centers and scenic drives in both the North Unit and South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park are open (and spectacular).  Campgrounds have re-opened in the park and in Medora – where the famed Medora Musical and Pitchfork Fondue are being offered nightly (through September 10) and all visitor services are open.  Bully Pulpit Golf Course has 9 holes open and playable.

And in Devils Lake, there is some road construction and road closures due to the mystifying lake – Fort Totten State Historic Site is open, Sullys Hill National Game Preserve is open upon appointment, the Spirit Lake Casino is open as well as all visitor services in Devils Lake and numerous boat ramps.  Don’t forget to visit the Lake Region Heritage Center Museum – it’s a gem!

While news in Minot, Bismarck, Medora and other cities flood-affected have created a lot of concern – we’d like to also note that adventurous, fun and memorable experiences await you throughout North Dakota.  We have thousands of events, historical sites, museums, nature areas and so much more.  A favorite of mine – the F-M RedHawks are at home in Fargo this weekend.  Our guests love North Dakota – read their stories at – and then come back and share your own!


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Saluting Sakakawea today (and every day)

March is Women’s History Month and today is International Women’s Day.  Arguably one of the most inspiring and influential women in North Dakota’s history is none other than the interpreter and guide Sakakawea who accompanied Lewis & Clark on the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific Ocean.

Sakakawea’s fascinating history can be explored at the North Dakota Heritage Center – the largest museum in the state, located in the Capitol city of Bismarck.  An online exhibit dedicated to Sakakawea is place to whet your appetite.

One of the foremost authorities on Sakakawea, Clay Jenkinson, writes about her in the book “A Vast and Open Plain.”  Jenkinson details what is known about this American Indian icon.  She was probably born among the Shoshone Indians around 1787.  She was captured at about the age of 11.  She spent the next five or six years among the Hidatsas and by the time Lewis and Clark arrived in late October 1804, she was one of the wives of French-Canadian trader Toussaint Charbonneau.

Jenkinson writes that it is certain Sakakawea joined the expedition primarily to interpret among the Shoshones, and her value must have been considerable because she made the immense journey to the Pacific Coast and back again to the Hidatsa villages carrying her infant child, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.

Today on International Women’s Day, we salute this pioneering woman who truly is Legendary.  Follow in her footsteps along the Lewis & Clark Trail in North Dakota and even enjoying one of the nation’s largest man-made lakes, named in her honor – Lake Sakakawea.

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Posted by on March 8, 2011 in Events, History


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Baseball in ND and Black History Month

It’s the start of baseball season and the close of Black History Month, and you might be reading that and wondering, “What does that have to do with North Dakota?”  Truly, there’s a fascinating bit of history here.

According to the most recent census report, only 1.2% of North Dakota’s population is black.  You might assume that North Dakota wouldn’t have much to offer in recognition of Black History Month (February).  Sports afficianos know otherwise though, and I’ve recently been learning some really cool baseball history about my state that intertwines with Black History.

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, semi-pro and amateur baseball was popular and prevalent in North Dakota.  Even some of the smallest towns had teams.  America’s pastime was North Dakota’s pastime, and along with Minnesota was one of the first states in the U.S. to allow integrated teams to play together.

A year after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball a player by the name of Satchel Paige joined the roster of the Cleveland Indians.  His legendary pitching got him elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971. Paige, along with notable players like Ted Radcliffe, Quincy Troppe and Showboat Fisher, were a part of the North Dakota baseball picture in the 1930s.  In 1935, Paige lead the Bismarck Churchills to a national championship and said, “That was the best team I ever saw; the best players I ever played with. But who ever heard of them.”

Some photos and information from North Dakota’s early baseball days are on display at the Heritage Center in Bismarck.  Visitors can also enjoy minor-league baseball at Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo.  This 4,500+ seat facility is home to 5-time league champions, the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.  The RedHawks begin their season on May 11.

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Posted by on February 28, 2011 in Attractions, History, Sports


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206th birthday of Sakakawea’s son

Sakakawea statue at the entrance to the North Dakota Heritage Center. Photo by Sharon Silengo

On the North Dakota State Capitol grounds in Bismarck, a 12-foot high bronze statue of Sakakawea and her baby son, Baptiste, stands at the entrance to the Heritage Center – the state’s largest museum.  The statue, created by Chicago sculpture Leonard Crunelle, depicts Sakakawea with her baby strapped to her back, looking westward toward the country she helped open on the Corp of Discovery.  The story of Sakakawea is fascinating and unique and it can now be explored through a new display and an online exhibit by the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

A special piece of that story surrounds newborn baby Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.  Today, February 11, marks the 206th birthday of Baptiste.  In the book “A Vast and Open Plain” edited by North Dakota’s own Clay Jenkinson, we find how Captain Meriwether Lewis documented the birth.

“about five oclock this evening one of the wives of Charbono was delivered of a fine boy. it is worthy of remark that this was the first child which this woman had boarn and as is common in such cases her labour was tedious and the pain violent; Mr. Jessome informed me that he had freequently administered a small portion of the rattle of a rattle-snake, which he assured me had never failed to produce the desired effect, that of hastening the birth of the child; having the rattle of a snake by me I gave it to him and he administered two rings of it to the woman broken in small pieces with the fingers and added to a small quantity of water. Whether this medicine was truly the cause or not I shall not undertake to determine, but I was informed that she had not taken it more than ten minutes before she brought forth”

It is not fully known if Baptiste (also nicknamed Pomp or Pompy by Lieutenant William Clark) was born at Fort Mandan, or nearby.  He remains the only infant to be a part of a major exploration and to ever be depicted on United States currency.  More about Sakakawea’s son is also online with the “Creating Sakakawea” exhibit.

Visitors to North Dakota can learn more about Sakakawea, Baptiste, the Corp of Discovery and the Mandan and Hidatsa peoples along the Lewis & Clark Trail in North Dakota and notably at the Heritage Center, the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and Fort Mandan, and numerous Trail attractions.

A replica of the Sakakawea statue is also on display at the U.S. Capitol.

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Posted by on February 11, 2011 in Attractions, Events, History


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A tale of two (USS North Dakota) submarines

Today marks the launch anniversary of the very first atomic submarine; it’s a great opportunity to talk about two ships of the US Navy that have been named in honor of North Dakota. 

The first USS North Dakota was launched in 1908 and operated with the Atlantic Fleet along the East Coast and the Caribbean Sea.  During World War I, the USS North Dakota (BB-29) cruised the coast of Mexico and participated in gunnery drill training in the Chesapeake Bay.  She was decommissioned in 1923 and her steam engines were fit into the USS Nevada.

A model of the first USS North Dakota is on display at the Heritage Center in Bismarck, along with numerous pieces of her silver service and both the one ton bow place and the 850 pound bell from the ship.

The USS North Dakota (SSN-784) will be the second ship of the US Navy to be named for the 39th state.  Her building contract was awarded in 2003, and name was announced in 2008.  This will be the first of the Block III subs with revised design and new nuclear technology.  The ship is scheduled to be commissioned in 2014.  You can read more about the process and even watch a video on the making of a submarine courtesy of the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce.  Commemorative battle coins and merchandise are also available.


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Honoring Veterans and Veteran’s Day in North Dakota

North Dakota Tourism is applauding our homegrown heroes this month and the military attractions unique to North Dakota.  In honor of Veteran’s Day (November 11) and the brave men and women who have served there will be free admission at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, two World War II exhibits will be opening at the Chateau de Mores in Medora, and a special ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. on November 11 at the Heritage Center in Bismarck.

Numerous communities will pay tribute with additional Veteran’s Day events.  See the November press release for great ideas to enjoy November in North Dakota.

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Posted by on November 9, 2010 in Events, Family Fun, History


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See a REAL Mummy on National Fossil Day

It’s the season to see mummies.  And what could be cooler than a real life mummy?!!  That’s right … a real life mummy here in North Dakota.  In 1999, a mummified dinosaur complete with skin, bones and tendons was discovered on a ranch near Marmarth.  That dinosaur was identified as a duck-billed hadrosaur and is nicknamed “Dakota.”

Dakota is partially on exhibit at the Heritage Center in Bismarck.  (Partially – because excavation continues to unearth the mummy from the plaster and earth that it’s been entombed in.)  The exhibit includes one arm and the tail, and features information about how the dino-mummy was discovered and recovered.

Read more about Dakota with National Geographic, and visit (with free admission) at the Heritage Center.

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Posted by on October 13, 2010 in Attractions, History, Just for Fun


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More than just prairie dogs underground

You could probably say that North Dakotans are good at keeping secrets.  The state has often been called a “best kept secret” in reference to beautiful scenery, fun attractions, awesome fishing, hunting and more.  Some of the most impressive secrets in North Dakota are the ones found underground.

It’s in the news today that oil production is expanding in ND.  Currently there are 102 active rigs and 4,500 producing wells in North Dakota.  The state currently ranks 4th in the nation in crude oil production – at 250,000 barrels a day.  Interested in oil facts and figures?  The North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck has a cool model depicting the drilling process and depths of the wells and the type of oil that’s found in the Bakken Formation.

While North Dakota’s #4 ranking in oil production may surprise you – the next underground secret might even unnerve you.

During the Cold War, it was no secret that Minuteman Missiles were positioned throughout the northern U.S.  Decades later, the types of missile may have changed – but they’re still here.  North Dakota has two of the four air force bases with control over 530 Minuteman III Missiles.  It’s unknown the exact location or number of the missiles in North Dakota but a guess would put about 265 here.  This modern military history can be explored at the new Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site near Cooperstown.  Oscar Zero was the code-name for this specific mission control.  Travelers can visit the facility and even go underground to see where those infamous keys could have synchronized to launch a nuclear warhead.

Don’t let North Dakota be a “best kept secret” any longer.  You are invited to be legendary!


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Dinosaurs in North Dakota

There are some pretty wild ways to explore Jurassic history in North Dakota.  Attractions like the Heritage Center in Bismarck and the Dakota Dinosaur Museum in Dickinson have excellent exhibits with information about fossils found in North Dakota and the region.  An extremely unique mummified fossil, known as Dakota, is returning to the Heritage Center this spring – after being on-loan to a museum in Japan.

The theatrical event Walking With Dinosaurs will take place April 13 & 14 in Bismarck and April 16, 17 & 18 in Fargo.  Watch them walk.  Hear the roar.  Be there as they battle for survival and supremacy.

Also announced are the dates for the 2010 Fossil Digs – as coordinated by the North Dakota Geological Survey.  Literally get your hands dirty and discover history beneath the soil.  Dates for the digs are as follows:

  • June 14-18 – Whiskey Creek (near Buffalo Gap)
  • June 21-27 – Medora
  • August 1-7 – Marmarth
  • August 7-14 – Rhame
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Posted by on March 11, 2010 in Attractions, Events, Family Fun, History


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