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Things to do in North Dakota

  • Fort MandanFort Mandan Washburn, North Dakota
    Fort Mandan was a triangular fort that was built along the Missouri River, although the exact spot is no longer able to be decided since the river swelled above its banks and wiped out any evidence.  It was built of cottonwood trees that grew along the banks of the river at that time and the gate opening was built facing the river to make entrance from it easier and quicker.  The walls were high all around in case of Indian attacks from the Sioux which did occur, but nothing major.  The fort was begun on November 2, 1804 and was occupied until April 7, 1805.  The Corps of Discovery did the constructing and it was for the men in the Lewis and Clark Expedition to live in through the winter which hit as low as minus 45 degrees that year.  There were only four days this whole period that it didn't rain, making it a miserable stay for the soldiers and visitors.  A Mandan Indian tribe village was just down the river from the fort and these Indians were specifically indicated by President Thomas Jefferson for trading purposes with the members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  The Sioux had made threatening gestures to attack the Mandan village and the fort numerous times, but only a few of the Indians attempted, but no major attacks were made.  The group came back through in August of 1806, and the fort was burned to the ground, but no reasons could be discovered.  This replicated fort sits about 2.5 miles from the approximated ideas of where it once stood.  Lewis and Clark had arrived at the Mandan-Hidatsa village on October 25, in 1804 and since the Indians were so hospitable and friendly, they decided to stay the winter and build the fort.  It turned out to be the longest winter that the men had encountered along their trek west.  It was here that they met Sakakawea, the woman who became such a great help along the way.  Lewis and Clark talked with many Indians trying to gain some idea about the trip west and any information they could get from them to help.  This village was a focal point for intertribal trade and very important to the remainder of the trip and why Jefferson had them stop over here.  The reconstructed fort contains many items that were used during that period, especially the type of equipment the group had.  Guides are here to help the visitor learn about this exciting adventure and what it meant to the United States in the upcoming years and various trades, most importantly the Louisiana purchase.

  • Painted Canyon
    The Painted Canyon evokes images of splendor and captivation as the morning sky greets the onlooker with its golden hues of yellow, oranges and often reds, entwining with the pale blue sky and the denser darker areas of the landscape.  At night as the sun sets, the mesmerizing colors change to purple, deep blue and a plethora of variations in between with the black sky full of blazing lights that can only be seen and appreciated in the loneliness and solitude of the badlands.  Native Americans have watched this changing scene for centuries, while fur traders, cavalrymen and even the 26th President, along with naturalists and writers tried to put the majestic beauty into words, so that others could see or imagine what wonders this powerful picture would conjure up in their mind's eye.  Among the incredible landscaping, you may see bands of wild horses, petrified wood and very unusual rock formations.

  • Maah Daah Hey Trail
    This fantastic trail runs through the southwestern areas of North Dakota for over 96 miles of trails.  The trail's symbol is the turtle, which was borrowed from the Lakota Sioux Indians and it means or symbolizes, determination, steadfastness, long-life, loyalty, patience and fortitude.  The shell symbol protects you and the effigy of it is on all the trails' posts.  The northern most point and trail start is the US Forest Service CCC Campground in McKenzie County, 20 miles south of Watford City.  It meanders to the southern most point at Sully Creek State Park in Billings County, just south of Medora.  Four campsites are on the trail with vault toilets, campfire rings, hitching posts and potable water wells.  A bike bypass trail that goes around the South Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is called Buffalo Gap Trail.  The trail's name comes from the Hidatsa-Mandan Indians and it means an area that has been around for a long time.  The trail goes through the badlands surrounded by big areas of gently rolling prairie and is home to mule deer, coyotes, eagles, prairie falcons, and antelope.  Elk and bighorn sheep have been brought back into the area and can be seen by the keenest lookers.  Buffalo and wild horses run through the Roosevelt Park.  The trail is open all year, although there are some occasions when they may be closed due to mud, high water, ice or snow.  This trail is used for bicyclists, hikers, and horseback riders.  The trail connects the northern and southern parts of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and goes through the Little Missouri National Grasslands that are part of the Badlands and it is the longest single-track bike trail in the country.

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  • Fort Berthold Indian ReservationFort Berthold Indian Reservation New Town North Dakota
    This Native American reservation in New Town, North Dakota is home to the Three Affiliated Tribes, the Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsa Indians.  It was started by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, with almost 12 million acres of land spread across North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota.  The scope of the reservation was changed in 1870, when the government gave away much of the land to settlers, and was reduced to approximately 990,000 acres, or less than 10% of what it was originally.  This is so typical of the many Native American tribes throughout the nation.  After finding some important mineral, location or other valuable asset on the original reservation, over the many years, they have been reduced to leaving only the least attractive, or desirable piece of land.  Although the reservation is that amount, only half that land is owned or allotted to the tribes.  The McLean National Wildlife Refuge is in the reservation boundaries, therefore, it belongs to one of the government agencies.  It is ironic that the Indians still manage to make a living from what is left, although the unemployment rate is just over 40%.  The history of these tribes is majestic, until the appearance of the white man, and the rest is a tragic history of displacement, distrust, murder, thievery and every conceivable evil that the Christian based white man can or could do to these Native Americans.  The picture to the right shows some of the marvelous lands that the tribes were left with and what some of it is being used for.  This is a gas and oil site that is for the Indians to work at, to get energy from, business knowledge, increasing capital investment and other idioms that the majority of the Native Americans could care less about.  They have lived on the land for centuries without energy, business, capital investment or jobs that pertain to the white man's world.  This is what is left of the buffalo lands, the green grasses of the plains and the freedom of the Native Americans in this country.  Perhaps the only good investment that has come out of the Indian reservation and laws pertaining to them is the many gambling venues that have spread up across the country where whites can come and spend their money getting drunk and losing their paychecks, all the while, there are white men running the establishments and in some way cheating the Indian again out of his rightful share.  No matter how the white man treads on the dignity and livelihood of the Native American in this country, God makes things right.  The Great Spirit, as the Indian tribes call Him is always watching and evening out the odds.

  •  North Dakota Heritage Center
    The center is located on the North Dakota State Capitol grounds in Bismarck and is the state's official history museum, opened in 1967 with permanent and rotating exhibits.  It contains a rare mummified dinosaur and other wonderful relics.  The center incorporates the studies of history, archeology and paleontology to create 7 exciting exhibits that tell the story about the state's past.  The Corridor of Time contains two exhibits that show what life was like in the state millions of years ago before the entrance of humans.  This period was like the environment of the Florida Everglades during the late Cretaceous and early Paleocene periods.  First People tell of the arrival of the first humans and how they lived and survived the hardships, with a reproduction of the oldest house excavated in the state that was during the 550-410 B. C. E.  The Era of Change contains the story and exhibit of the first Europeans to come to the area in the 18th century, exploring, trading and then settling.  It is during this period of the state's development that the Dakota, Arikara, Hidatsa, Assiniboine, Mandan and Cheyenne Indians were living, with the arrival of these early settlers.  In the northern Red River Valley area, during the early 1800s, the Chippewas moved in and the Crow, Blackfoot and Cree hunted the buffalo on the western ranges.  Over the next 150 years, these Native Americans watched in horror and disbelief as their way of life was dramatically changed, with new and terrible diseases that decimated their tribes, the buffalo almost made extinct, the land taken over by the white people and their sentence to the small boundaries within a reservation.  The Settlement Era tells of this state blossoming towns and settlements as the immigration of the state began in earnest.  The Bright Dreams and Hard Times tells about the Great Depression that changed the way the state did things and the way it affected the people living here.  During this time over 70% of the state's population needed public assistance in one way or another.  In the Birds of North Dakota, the 200 species of these gentle flyers brighten up the lives of the people and the scenery of the state.  The Dakota Kids exhibit is for the children with toys and games of the past and many interactive activities for them.

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Local Restaurants in North Dakota
  • Pirogue Grill
    One of the finest restaurants in the state is in Bismarck, known as the Pirogue Grill, with a wonderful ambiance, inviting atmosphere and excellent dining.  The open faced kitchen allows you to view the kitchen and chef as they prepare your cuisine while allowing the aromas of the culinary delights slowly wafting in from the kitchen into the dining area, with its blend of wood, metalwork, brick and original artwork.  Each table is tastefully adorned with linen and white butcher paper allowing you to draw or doodle your self while waiting dinner.  Crayons are provided for this unique experience in a dining room.  This great eating establishment serves Midwest flavors that follow the seasonal foods that are grown and gathered in the area.  This means duck, bison, walleye and hand made venison sausage.  Following are some of the fine attractions on their extensive menu; appetizers include; walleye trio of tastes, house-made venison sausage with sweet potato salad; bbq rabbit served on wild rice and potato pancake.  Soups offered include; roast corn and bison and soup of the day; salads; spinach with house-cured bacon, sun-dried cranberries and bleu cheese; warm goat cheese, filled dates with mixed greens and Clementine vinaigrette; roasted beet salad with shallot vinaigrette, goat cheese and spiced pecans.  The main entrees are all temptingly delicious, but some of the favorite are; sautéed loin of local lamb with mint pesto and red wine sauce; grilled Dakota farms filet of beef with porcini-herb butter; breast of free range chicken with Maytag bleu and buffalo wing sauce; sautéed bison medallions with bordelaise sauce and roast barley pilaf and finally; grilled rainbow trout with horseradish, pancetta and green onion crème fraiche.  A few dessert offering include; chocolate pate with raspberry sauce; fresh strawberry ice cream  or citrus and ND honey custard tart with caramel sauce.

  • Sanders 1907
    One of the finest restaurants in the Midwest, is Sanders 1907 in downtown Grand Forks.  The original place was flooded in 1997, like the rest of the city and the rebuilt version is bigger and better with a renewed vigor that is evident in their excellent cuisine.  It has a great home town feel and ambiance, with the culinary delights that are synonymous with many upscale places in the eastern metropolis.  A few ideas for appetizers are; French onion soup topped with gruyere cheese; wild mushrooms sautéed and finished in Marsala cream; shrimp cocktail; escargot; or smoked salmon Napoleon with layers of smoked salmon, Boursin, capers and chopped onions.  Salads include; Sanders original Greek with tarragon vinaigrette; cucumber salad with red onions and creamy dressing; Caesar salad.  Salad entrees include; grilled salmon salad is mixed greens with tomato, red onion, cucumbers, mushrooms, Greek and Italian olives, wedge of blue cheese and choice of dressing; Sanders 1907 Chef's salad is mixed greens with pecans, egg, avocado, mushrooms, tomato, cucumbers, red onion topped with shrimp, prime rib, chicken and wedge of Cambrozola and choice of dressing.  Some of the fabulous items on the entree house specials include; grilled wild king salmon with ND prairie sauce; roast caraway duck done Czechoslovakian style with red cabbage and spaetzle; bbq buffalo ribs smoked and finished with Sanders chipotle bbq sauce. Their main entrees include salad and homemade French bread; seafood mixed grill, with shrimp, scallops, crab cake and fish special; filet mignon topped with your choice of green peppercorn sauce or gorgonzola sauce; pasta carbonara; pasta marinara.


free range chicken Piroque Grill Bismarck, North Dakota


sauteed lamb Piroque Grill Bismarck, North Dakota



Sanders salmon Grand Forks, North Dakota


Sanders duck Grand Forks, North Dakota


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  • Lake Metigoshe State Park Lake Metigoshe State Park Bottineau, North Dakota
    Sheltered in the beautiful Turtle Mountains of North Dakota, encompassing the serene "clear water lake surrounded by oaks" in Chippewa; Lake Metigoshe reflects the awesome landscape known as Lake Metigoshe State Park.  Sometime during the 1930s, when hundreds of thousands of young men wandered across this great nation looking for work, the WPA, or Works Progress Administration carved this park into one of the most favorite vacation areas in the state.  Full of perch, northern pike and walleye, the lake is a joy to many of the state's residents, with huge aspen forests, smaller lakes and streams and grassy rolling hills attract the plethora of nature and photography enthusiasts coming to capture the beauty they view.  Also in this majestic park, the old Oak Trail winds through the park's recreational trails, with sights and sound of woods, animals and sights that mesmerize the visitor with its natural charisma.  There are numerous primitive and modern campsites, picnicking, fishing, boating and other adventures awaiting.  Even the winter doesn't stop the exciting fun that can be found in the park, with snowmobiling, ice fishing, skating, sledding, and cross country skiing.  These snowmobile trails are part of a system of trails meandering over 250 miles through the magnificent country.  There are three family cabins with a kitchenette and bathroom; as well as dorms that house many people, and include kitchens and dining halls.  The park is 1551 acres of land, with a 130 campsites, some with 30 amp power stations, a boat ramp, playground, canoe rentals and many hiking trails.

  • Whitestone Hill Battlefield
    It was on the morning of September 3, 1863, six miles southwest of the small town of Merricourt, Major Albert House, commander of the Sixth Iowa Cavalry battalion, was leading a scouting party looking for Indians.  Sometime afternoon, Frank LaFrambois, the Metis scout, found the encampment of Yanktonai Sioux by a lake near Whitestone Hill.  The major moved his troops into position and found that the camp was bigger than first thought with 300 to 600 lodges.  The scout and two troopers were sent to find General Sully and reinforcements.  After they had left, the Sioux discovered the troops and some of them started to run off and others set up to fight.  The major sent recon units to different sides of the hill to gather intel, as he waited for the general to arrive.  Almost 3 hours passed, when some chiefs came to surrender; but House refused, saying he wanted all the Indians to surrender.  The reinforcements were almost a mile away when the Sioux saw them coming and put them in a panic.  Preparations to leave began in a frenzy and the Indians started leaving down a ravine that was on the east side of the hill.  It was around sunset when the general and his troops arrived and started coming towards the village; as the general noticed many leaving.  The general ordered Colonel Robert Furnas in charge of the Second Nebraska Cavalry to advance at full speed to stop the retreating Indians.  On his way to do this, Furnas told House to encircle the hill on the left, or east and north.  The colonel had his troops to the south, or right, wanting to encircle the hill from that point, but saw that Whitestone Hill blocked that escape route, so he sent Colonel David Wilson with some of the troops to the north.  Sully, with two companies of the Sixth and one company of the Seventh, and the artillery charged the center with many Indians captured as they went.  The general and his troops set up the artillery on Whitestone Hill in case the other troops would need support and to direct the battle.  Indians were running everywhere, with the majority going down the ravine.  The ones that made it through the ravine were forced into a big group a half mile from the village because they were surrounded by troops on all sides.  Furnas became worried that the Indians would escape in the oncoming darkness and ordered his men forward on foot.  When they were a few hundred yards from the Indians, Colonel Robert W. Furnas ordered his men to start firing.  The other troops that had the Indian group surrounded, followed his troops' lead and on foot began shooting also.  Colonel Wilson's men had remained mounted and as the troops were closing in on the Indians, his mounted men's horses became frightened and hard to manage.  Many of the Sioux noticed this and headed towards his men hoping to escape the slaughter and did.  The darkness was becoming difficult and bullets were coming close to his troopers, so Colonel Furnas had his men go to higher ground to avoid getting wounded by a stray bullet, and eventually the rest of the troops did the same, waiting for morning.  The incredible sight that came into view in the dawning light showed the horrible destruction that the army did, with dead and wounded women, children and men, horses, and dogs laying wounded and dying all over the village and ravine. 

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  • Fort Union Trading Post National Historic SiteFort Union Trading Post National Historic Site North Dakota
    Sitting on the Missouri River banks, near where the Yellowstone River joins it,  the partly rebuilt trading post was one of the first declared National Historic Landmarks in the country, and is close on the North Dakota/Montana border.  Originally known as Fort Henry, it was constructed in 1828 for the Upper Missouri Outfit, operated by Kenneth McKenzie and capitalized by John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company.  The trading post was the most prominent on the upper Missouri until 1867; trading with Hidatsa, Crow, Assiniboine, Ojibwa, Cree and Blackfeet Indians.  The trade would involve furs brought in by the Indians and traded for blankets, cookware, knives, beads, cloth, clay pipes, guns and most importantly liquor.  A few of the more famous historic visitors included; Jim Bridger, John James Audubon, Father Pierre DeSmet, Karl Bodmer, George Catlin and Sitting Bull.  The fort became a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and showed that two different cultures could find a common ground that was beneficial to both, without regard to race, language or culture. 

  • Elkhorn Ranch Site
    The North Dakota former home of President Theodore Roosevelt is Elkhorn Ranch in Billings County.  In 1947, the Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park was made which included the Elkhorn ranch house and 218 pristine acres that the President loved to roam and bring guests to.  This great man was a noted conservationist with ideas of saving many areas of this nation so that future generations could enjoy the wonderful sights that make up America.  Teddy came to the area in 1883 to hunt buffalo, and after getting one, he bought a half interest in the Maltese Cross Ranch and started a cattle business.  On February 14th, 1884, both his wife and mother died and later the next month wrote to his Maine guide Bill Sewall that he felt the time would be good for him.  He asked him to join him the next August and went to the Dakotas to find solace in the serenity and solitude that pervaded the lands.  That summer he found another location for a ranch 35 miles north of Medora and called it Elkhorn after discovering a set of entwined elkhorn antlers on the property.  Sewall and his nephew, Wilmot Dow arrived in mid October and started cutting cottonwood trees to build the ranch house, which they finished by the spring.  It was 30 by 60 feet with 7 foot walls, 8 rooms and a porch.  In August of 1885, Dow returned to Maine, got married and came back with his new wife, Mrs. Sewall and their little girl.  The next year, both Mrs. Sewall and Mrs. Dow gave birth to sons on the ranch.  Sewall and Dow ran the ranch for Teddy until the fall and then went back to Maine. 

  • Chahinkapa ZooChahinkapa Zoo Wahpeton, North Dakota
    Wahpeton, North Dakota is home to the Chahinkapa Zoo with over 200 animals and a completely renovated 1926 antique carousel with 20 horses.  Inside the zoo, the Rodger Ehnstrom Nature Center is also found, which is devoted to nature education.  Some of the magnificent animals that make their home here are snow leopards, Bengal tigers, otters, wallabies, gibbon apes, llamas, elk, bison, cougars, elk, gemsbok, grizzly bears, camels, monkeys and 60 varieties of birds.  At Grandpa's Little Zoo, you can get hands on educational experience for the children on a number of farm animals.  The Chihinkapa Park sits in the northeast corner of Wahpeton, along the shores of the Red River of the North.  In 1903, the town bought land from the government and the park was started 30 years later, as was the zoo.  During the 60s, the zoo was moved to its location of today and occupies 18 acres on the northern end of the park.  The zoo association was started in 1974, and in 1984, a five plan was started to make it clean and green. 

  • Roger Maris Museum
    In Fargo, North Dakota, a memorial is set up to a great baseball hero and humble man that broke the world record of one of the most famous baseball players of all time; Babe Ruth, it was the museum of former New York Yankee outfielder Roger Maris.  Born in Fargo, Roger was approached about a museum to honor his triumph in baseball history, and said no, thanks.  Finally he was persuaded and stated it would have to be where people could see it and free to view.  In 1961, he beat the Babe's former record of 60 set in 1927, by hitting 61 home runs in a season.  In 1984, the museum opened in the West Acres Shopping Center in Fargo and visitors can see all his memorabilia here for free.  The mall has over 7 million visitors each year, although no one is sure how many stop by the museum, but it seems to be busy all the time.  The museum was rebuilt in 2003, with his widow and other family members special guests.  The new version has better lighting, new glass and ventilation to preserve his trophies.  Some of the items here is a video room that has some of the original Yankee stadium seats from Maris' time, a replication of his monument in Yankee stadium, a replica of his locker, and displays and artifacts from his youth and Major League playing time.

  • Fort Ransom State ParkFort Ransom State Park Fort Ransom, North Dakota
    Chester Alan Arthur was the second President born in the state of North Dakota, and also born in a small obscure community where farming was the main industry.  Chester was also a Republican that came to be President of the United States by succeeding to the office by his predecessors untimely death.  This site is the second house that Chester grew up in and no one is really sure where he was born, or for that matter what year.  It is believed that he was born in 1829, although he himself said 1830, and the house or really a cabin that was quickly built in Fairfield.  His father was the pastor at the local Baptist Congregation church, and a parsonage was later built.  A granite monument was dedicated in 1903 on land that was thought or believed to be his birthplace and given to the state of North Dakota.  In 1950, the state bought all the land around the monument to place his reconstructed home in 1953, using an old photograph to replicate it.  Chester's father, William was originally from Ireland, and after graduating from Belfast University went to live in Quebec province and taught school.  He soon married Malvina Stone from North Dakota and moved there to teach school and attend law school.  Soon William felt the call and was ordained in 1828, and moved to North Fairfield, living in a small log cabin for over a year while their parsonage was built.  Chester was born on October 5, 1829 here.  His family moved to New York, and he attended school, while his father co-founded the New York Anti-slavery Society and became involved in the temperance movement also.  In 1845, Chester started at the Union College in Schenectady, studying classical education.  He became a schoolteacher and started to study law.  In 1851, he became principal of an academy that was in the bottom floor of his father's church in North Pownal, North Dakota.  During this period, his future presidential running mate, James A. Garfield was hired as a penmanship instructor.  Chester was admitted to the New York bar in 1854 and was soon known as a champion of civil rights for the blacks, and won a landmark decision case, the Lemmon Slave Case that allowed blacks coming to the state to be free.  He became he Quartermaster General of New York and a brigadier general in the Union army where he supplied food and other items to the union army.  1871 had him becoming the Collector of Customs in the New York Customhouse, appointed by President Grant, who was part of the Republican group, the Stalwarts.  Chester soon became a member of this group and his prowess at political persuasion soon showed itself.  In the 1880 National Republican Convention, a deadlock between Grant and Maine's senator Blaine ended in a compromise that had Ohio's Senator James A. Garfield nominated for President and Chester the vice president nominee.  In 1881, less than four months after the election, Garfield was shot in the Baltimore and Potomac railroad station, and Chester A. Arthur became the next President. 

  • Camp Hancock State Historical Site
    In Bismarck, North Dakota, the site of a military site was built called Camp Greeley in 1872 to protect the workers building the Northern Pacific Railroad; but was changed to Camp Hancock in 1873.  One of the original buildings, a log cabin, has been made bigger and covered with clapboard siding and is now the museum for relics and information about the local history.  In the beginning, it had a quartermaster depot and signal office until 1894 and was first named Greeley in honor of the editor of the New York Times and a liberal candidate for the Presidency, who said "Go west young man".  In 1873, the new post commander was George Winfield Hancock and its name was changed in his honor.  Besides being created to protect the railroad workers, it was supposed to protect the supplies, equipment and engineering crews as well as the people of Edwinton; the original name of Bismarck.  The signal corps station was to transmit military messages and the weather patterns.  The last troops left in 1877 and it continued to run as a signal station and quartermaster's depot.

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