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A family weekend in Medora

Last weekend was a rare summer weekend that was open on our calendar and so we packed the bags and tent and headed to Medora for a camping overnight and adventure. This marked the first time my girls have ever camped and they were bursting with excitement. On Saturday morning, the first word that either of them said was “camping.”

Setting up camp with a view of TR National Park

We made a reservation at the Medora campground and had a site near the Little Missouri River with a view of the buttes of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Here we made a little lunch (there is a partial burn ban in place) before heading into the town of Medora for some shopping. A pair of cowboy boots and a cap-gun later we were in swimsuits and heading to the City pool.  At just $3.00 per person for the day this heated pool was a great place to be on a 90-degree day.  From the pool we also ventured to the new Family Fun Center.  $8.00 per person equals two-days of unlimited use of the inflatable water slide, rock climbing wall and bungee-jump-trampoline.  I lost track of the number of items we went down the slide. My daughters are 4 and 5 1/2 and they had no problems making the stairs and no fears heading down the slide. But I will say that my children have a bit of fearlessness in them. Case in point, the rock climbing wall. The website doesn’t say exactly how tall this wall is but in my perspective as their mom – my daughter was hanging 1,900 feet off the ground. The staff were friendly and thorough and safety was never a question for me.

Both girls said that their favorite activity though was the trampoline bungee-jump.

   

Saturday evening was perfectly picturesque – which also describes what a lot of people were doing following the famous Pitchfork Steak Fondue. If you haven’t yet experienced a pitchfork steak fondue, it’s literally hundreds of ribeye steaks, speared on pitchforks and fondued! (I should have warned the cook that I was going to take his picture.)

And what can I say about the Medora Musical?! It is one of the best shows I’ve seen performed at the stunning Burning Hills Amphitheater. The new cast had perfect harmonies, the music was a great blend of modern country, gospel, patriotism and classic themes, the script was fresh and the fiddler is awesome.

Camping was a success.  There was a rain shower that went through and yes, it was a little warm and stuffy. Plus, the sunrise was at 5:30 a.m. and I think my daughters were up shortly after that! But nothing can compare to seeing them wake in that golden light and look out on the Badlands with such joy.

 

 

 

 

Sunday morning we took a drive through the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park where we were very soon greeted by buffalo who had taken over a prairie dog town. Just another mile into the park, more buffalo greeted us – including a pair who walked right along our pickup.

 

We took a hike along the Wind Canyon Trail – which was great for the ages of my daughters. It has a great view of the Little Missouri.

 

 

And finally, off into the distance, we saw a herd of wild horses that made my youngest daughter smile like this.

It was an excellent weekend and even though we go to Medora almost annually there are always new things to try and new experiences to share. (This year we didn’t pack the golf clubs for Bully Pulpit, which my hubby only mentioned once or twice.)

If you have favorite vacation stories and pictures, please share them with us on our Facebook page!

 
 

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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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Celebrate Prairie Dog’s Day!

Black-tailed prairie dog, photo by Greg Forcey

Okay, okay.  So we all know it’s actually a relative of the prairie dog that gets all the fame and glory right about now.  Still we thought the holiday was a good reason to call Theodore Roosevelt National Park and check on the prairie dog colonies there and, more importantly, if they’re paying attention to their shadows.

Rangers at TR National Park say the mild temperatures this winter have meant our prairie dogs have been very active, especially on sunny days.  Unlike the groundhog, prairie dogs do not hibernate.  They go into what’s called a “winter sleep” allowing them to continue to burrow and eat during the winter and also scamper on those sunny days.

In the South Unit, the scenic drive loop passes through three large prairie dog towns.  In the North Unit, no dog towns can be seen from the road but there is a one-mile hike from the Caprock-Coulee parking area toward a town.  There are an abundance of wildlife viewing opportunities in the Park and information about prairie dogs and other watchable wildlife is shared online.

Prairie dog town in TRNP, photo by QT Luong

In addition to not hibernating, prairie dogs differ from their larger cousins in another way: groundhogs prefer to live on their own while prairie dogs connect their burrows to huge colonies.  The colonies in Theodore Roosevelt National Park collectively span 11,000 acres! 

Another great place to see the rare black-tailed prairie dog is at Fort Stevenson State Park, on the north shore of Lake Sakakawea.  There is signage directing visitors to the prairie dog colony and explaining a bit about them.  Sully Creek State Park near Medora, has a colony right outside the park.  Colonies can also be found on private land, mostly in south central and western North Dakota.

So that one question remains – do prairie dogs pay attention to their shadows and predict the length of winter?  We invite you to visit North Dakota and see for yourself!

 

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So much to look forward to in 2012

As you’re getting ready to turn that calendar to a new year, grab your pen and start making plans to check out some new attractions and activities in North Dakota!

The International Peace Garden in the Turtle Mountains is known for its beauty, tranquility and symbolism. It’s a popular destination in the summer and now travelers can enjoy it in the winter. The Peace Garden has an extensive network of trails accessible for snowshoeing.  Snowshoes, walking poles and bindings can be rented from the interpretive center.  The interpretive center and conservatory are open year round.

The Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University is dedicated to preserving the legacy of America’s 26th President. A new presidential digital library gives scholars and visitors a new way to be inspired by Roosevelt.  Visit online or in-person – but be sure to package your visit with Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Always wanted to fish the Missouri River in the winter but your boat is stored away? No problem. Sakakawea Guide Service now offers unique houseboats with an opportunity to fish the Garrison Dam tailrace throughout the winter months.

Rolling Plains Adventures, near Bismarck, hosts guided hunts and ranch vacations and a new Grand Lodge will open in 2012. Based on Black Leg Ranch, the fifth generation ranchers/owners help guests discover ranch life with horseback riding and cattle drives plus home-cooked meals.

The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center expansion is slated to be open in February showcasing a new event center, library and production studio. More exhibits tell the story of the Corps of Discovery and others who journeyed through (now) North Dakota.  The Center is located in Washburn.

Also scheduled to be open in February is the new Enchanted Castle, a 20-room lodging facility in Regent – known as one stop along the Enchanted Highway. The front of the new hotel will have the appearance of a castle. Walk across the moat to enter the property.

Stay tuned for more great things coming to North Dakota in 2012.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2011 in Attractions, ND in the News, North Dakota Buzz

 

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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 www.RULegendary.com – and then come back and share your own!

 

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A cultural vacation

Sometimes when people travel, you’ll hear them talk about immersing themselves in the culture.  Or that they might even be taking a cultural vacation.  In fact, one of the top travel trends in the U.S. is “history and culture” vacations.  But what does that mean?  And could you even be doing it without knowing?

The types of cultural experiences found in North Dakota vary.  Our Culture & Heritage Trail Guide is a free publication dedicated to five themes found in a North Dakota vacation experience.  You can request this publication online or by calling 1-800-435-5663.  The themes you’ll read about include:

  • Arts & Entertainment
  • Wildlife & Wonders
  • Heritage & Heroes
  • The Lewis & Clark Trail
  • Ranches, Farms & Gardens

The types of culture found in North Dakota is far ranging and includes celebrations of immigrant cultures, like the Ukrainian Festival in Dickinson (July 22-24), the Deuce of August Icelandic Celebration in Mountain (July 29-31) and North America’s largest Scandinavian Festival, Norsk Hostfest in Minot (September 27-October 1).

There are celebrations of western culture, like the  Taylor Horsefest (July 29-30), the Wild West Shootouts at the Frontier Village in Jamestown and Tatanka Festival (July 7-10) and the popular Medora Musical (nightly June 10-September 10).

You can also explore Native American culture at the Northern Great Plains Culture Fest (July 30-31) and the magnificent UTTC International Powwow (September 8-11).

And if you’re looking for history, you’ve visited the right place.  North Dakota is where legends were made and you can follow the Trail of Lewis & Clark, visit Theodore Roosevelt’s cabin in a national park named for him, see the home of Sakakawea, the fort of General Custer, the headdress of Sitting Bull, a museum dedicated to Roger Maris and even the birthplace of Lawrence Welk.

You are invited to visit, explore and enjoy North Dakota’s history and culture.  From one of the oldest standing structures built by immigrants to a botanical garden commemorating international peace – there’s a diverse and fun trail waiting for you in North Dakota.

 
 

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Lots of Theodore Roosevelt related news

This weekend, enjoy free entrance and camping at Theodore Roosevelt National Park (entrances in Medora and near Watford City).  The scenic drives are open, weather permitting, and backcountry skiing and snowshoeing is permitted.

January 15 is Winter Fun Day at the Chateau de Mores in Medora.  Bring sleds, skis, snowshoes and enjoy activities with hot chocolate and cookies to be served.  There will be a fire pit bonfire on the patio and all activities are free including admission to the Chateau de Mores and its interpretive center. 

Theodore Roosevelt Documentary to Air

“Theodore Roosevelt: A Cowboy’s Ride to the White House” will run on 175 Public Broadcast stations over the next few months.  The documentary details Roosevelt’s life as a cowboy and his time in the Badlands of North Dakota, which he said was responsible for him becoming president.  For more information and copies of the film visit www.dorganfilms.com.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2011 in History, TRNP / Badlands, Winter Fun

 

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