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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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Spooky times in North Dakota

Fort Abraham Lincoln has a reputation as one of the most haunted places of North Dakota.  Rumor has it that when Custer House (where General George Armstrong Custer and his wife Libby lived) was reconstructed in 1989 the men and women who long ago lived and died at Fort Lincoln were themselves resurrected. Interpreters and tourists both reported paranormal experiences from the beginning, and as more buildings were added, so too were hauntings to the chronicles of the strange and unexplained at Fort Lincoln. A woman wearing a black dress is seen looking out a second-floor window of the Custer House; footsteps are heard pacing the sergeant’s quarters in the Barracks; the voices of weeping women echo along the boardwalk; a shadowy figure stalks the Commissary at night; horses’ hooves stomp the dirt of their stalls in the Stables.

Paranormal activity has continued for years; occasionally a new phenomena is documented, like floating orbs in photographs. In 2002, Haunted Fort was created at Fort Abraham Lincoln – giving visitors the opportunity to have a spooky, hair-raising good time at a fascinating (and haunted?) historic site.

Haunted Fort will be open October 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29.  Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is a great visit at all times of year.

More Scary Situations and Fall Travel Ideas

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Attractions, Entertainment, Events

 

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Huge Icelandic festival this weekend and lots to do in NE North Dakota

This weekend is the 112th annual Deuce of August Icelandic celebration in Mountain, North Dakota.  If you aren’t familiar with Mountain, it’s a town of 130 people that more than quadruples in size with this celebration of Icelandic heritage and culture.  Always held the weekend before the first Monday in August, it coordinates with the Islendingadagurinn – the Manitoba Icelandic celebration in the town of Gimli.

The town of Mountain is one of the oldest Icelandic settlements in the U.S.  The Vikur Lutheran Church, established in 1880, is known as the oldest Icelandic church in all of North America.

Events start tomorrow and take place throughout the weekend.  More than 300 visitors from Iceland will be attending this year including a choir group which will be performing.

Free genealogy research is another perk offered to guests – including more than just family trees for participants; sagas and stories of ancestors are shared.

While you’re in the area, also consider visiting Icelandic State Park and other nearby attractions include the Pembina State Museum, the Gingras Trading Post State Historic Site, and the Rendezvous Region Scenic Backway through the Pembina Gorge.

The Frostfire Summer Theatre performance of Big River is also taking place this weekend and is a short drive from Mountain.  Watch the story of Huck Finn come to life on a beautiful outdoor stage.

 
 

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Like unique camping?

This weekend one member of the North Dakota Tourism staff is trying out a yurt at Cross Ranch State Park.  So you’re asking yourself – what’s a yurt?  This unique type of camping is a cross between tenting it and renting a cabin.  Two yurts are now available at Cross Ranch State Park.  Comfortably furnished, a yurt is a portable, canvas-covered, wood-lattice-framed structure traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia.  It’s more home-like than tent and have propane heaters.  They can accommodate four to six people and reserved by calling 1-800-807-4723.

The second question you might be asking is: Camping?  In the winter?  You betcha!  Cross Ranch State Park has 10 miles of groomed trails perfect for cross-country skiing, plus more backcountry and beautiful areas for snow shoeing.  The ND State Parks offer more than 50 miles of cross-country ski trails.  Check out trail conditions online.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2011 in Winter Fun

 

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