By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News
Posted 10/04/16 (Tue)
The title might seem a bit cliche, but it’s true. For anyone who thinks there isn’t anything to see or do in North Dakota, they’re completely off their rocker.
When we go elsewhere, often times tourist attractions are on main roads. In North Dakota, other than Devils Lake, main roads are probably the most dull part of the state. That’s what visitors generally see and they naturally assume the entire state is just like what they see between Bismarck and Jamestown or Grand Forks and Devils Lake.
It’s quite the opposite, literally and figuratively. Most of the thrilling sites are off main roads and are sometimes hidden along gravel roads somewhere out in the bush.
Of course, we do have some high-profile sites like Medora, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Lake Sakakawea and Devils Lake, that a lot of people know about already and many have visited.
But there are a lot of out-of-the-way places that many of us in the state have been enjoying for decades.
How many of you have been to Fort Ransom State Park, near the communities of Fort Ransom and Lisbon? If not, it’s in the Sheyenne River Valley south of Valley City. It’s some of the prettiest scenery in North Dakota, especially in the fall. This is the next best thing to New Hampshire.
Lake Metigoshe is becoming a popular and populated place, but still holds some of the most breathtaking flora and fauna anywhere in the state. Just drive N.D. Highway 43 from St. John to just north of Carbury. The scenery is more like northern Minnesota than North Dakota.
It’s a drive on a scenic byway you won’t soon forget. And if you veer off just a bit, you’ll experience the International Peace Garden. There’s nothing else like it on the face of the earth and it’s right here in North Dakota... and Manitoba.
There’s also Mystical Horizons, North Dakota’s version of Stonehenge. It’s designed for viewing of the summer and winter solstices, but is a marvel anytime of year.
I would assume that few people reading this article have seen the Fairview Lift Bridge and railroad tunnel near Cartwright, which is a small town in McKenzie County that nearly bumps the Montana border.
There again, you’ll see scenery much unlike the rest of North Dakota. In fact, it’s quite different than the rest of McKenzie County. It’s in a valley, there are hills and bluffs and you’ll see irrigated sugar beets, which look uncharacteristic outside the Red River Valley.
If you want to see a real scenic area that never gets any media attention, drive N.D. Highway 1804 from Bismarck to Linton.
This route is along the Missouri River and all but about 10 miles of it will be scenery to include the Missouri River and its valley.
I grew up in that part of Emmons County and miss those Sunday afternoon drives with my parents, at least between Hazelton and Linton along the river. Those hills are unforgettable.
The Des Lacs River Valley that begins at the Canadian border at Northgate, and meets at the confluence of the Souris River at Burlington, offers some breathtaking beauty, especially the farther north you go.
The hills become sharper and taller, the valley’s width doesn’t change and just south of Kenmare is a fantastic view of Des Lacs Lake below. This valley is steeped in history that dates back to the days of Pierre La Verendrye in 1738, Just think, that was the same year that Charles Cornwallis was born. He was the British general who fought Washington’s army in the colonies some 40 years later.
If you like the Missouri River, I suggest you visit Cross Ranch, near Center. State park officials have done a great job of keeping that area as primitive as it was long before statehood. Of course, there are some amenities, but when you’re there, it’s almost as if you are stepping back into time.
There’s the Killdeer Mountains, the Whitestone Hill Battlefield, Crystal Springs, Double Ditch Indian Village, Sitting Bull’s gravesite, White Butte, the highest point in North Dakota and the list goes on.
But my favorite has to be the Pembina Gorge. I like to call it North Dakota’s best-kept secret because it’s off main roads and it isn’t promoted a whole lot.
It’s very primitive with plenty of hills and woods. There are little trails everywhere, not necessarily made by humans, which makes it great fun and adventure for hiking. Trees not found anywhere else in North Dakota are found there.
Call me crazy, but there is also some breathtaking beauty in the Pembina Gorge during winter.