North Dakota: Worth Another Look

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'Pheasants on the Prairie' has four pheasants: a 40-foot tall rooster, a 35-foot tall hen and two chicks that reach 15 feet high. Together the fowl family weighs a massive 30,000 pounds. These are on the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota.
‘Pheasants on the Prairie’ has four pheasants: a 40-foot tall rooster, a 35-foot tall hen and two chicks that reach 15 feet high. Together the fowl family weighs a massive 30,000 pounds. These are on the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota.

Things most people never knew about North Dakota

By Danielle Aihini

This rock formation is called the Mushroom, is in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.
This rock formation is called the Mushroom, is in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

North Dakota is often referred to as the Peace Garden State, which is a nod to the International Peace Garden on the border of North Dakota and Canada. The state is known for its great outdoors and striking scenic views at national and state parks like the surreal Badlands.

North Dakota is home to less than 800,000 residents, and so—there’s plenty of room to stretch out and enjoy the open skies of the American West.

But, what about the lesser-known, maybe even surprising aspects of North Dakota? While the outdoors is a big draw for visitors to the state, Director of the Tourism Division Sara Coleman says the indoor amenities are becoming a big draw of their own.

“The arts and culture scene is growing in major cities, like Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot and Bismarck, where you will find dozens of new restaurants, microbreweries and galleries,” said Coleman.

She also noted smaller communities like Pekin which hosts an annual multi-day art show and New Rockford where the restored opera house has reemerged into the entertainment scene, called the Dakota Prairie Regional Center for the Arts.

The International Peace Garden is a major attraction in central North Dakota.
The International Peace Garden is a major attraction in central North Dakota.

In Dickinson resides the one-year-old Celebrations ‘n’ Crafts Arts and Crafts Supply Store. The large mural on the side of the building invites neighbors and tourists alike to marvel over the talent of locals and enter the store for a day full of enjoyment.

According to Co-owner Amanda Galster, the business has many things planned for the next few years like painting and wine classes, general art classes, adding new artists to the gallery, and gallery re-designs.

“One of the big things we are super excited about is adding to Art Ave this summer. We have great plans for it. We have artists lined up to come paint from Fargo, Bismarck and locally here in Dickinson to come paint murals.

We can’t wait to see it get filled up with more color. It’s a beautiful sight to see.” said Galster.

Papa's Pumpkin Patch in Bismarck offers old time fun for kids and grown-ups.
Papa’s Pumpkin Patch in Bismarck offers old-time fun for kids and grown-ups.

Bagg Farm Bonanza

Another lesser-known attraction Coleman highlights is Bagg Farm, a restored Bonanza Farm near Mooretown and one of the last remaining ones in the U.S. Tours and events are available at the farm which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Bagg Farm, a preserved Bonanza farm in North Dakota.
Bagg Farm, a preserved Bonanza farm in North Dakota.

Bonanza farms were historically very large farms in the U.S. harvesting grains like wheat.
Also on the National Register is The Beiseker Mansion, an 1899 Victorian home turned into a bed and breakfast near Fessenden.

“While many visitors are aware of the rugged badland formations found in and around Theodore Roosevelt Park, the Pembina Gorge in eastern North Dakota is often a surprise.

Famous for its great outdoors and breathtaking landmarks, North Dakota is full of hidden outdoor gems that may surprise tourists.

A grasshopper sculpture on the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota.
A grasshopper sculpture on the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota.

The Gorge extends from the Canadian border west of Walhalla and encompasses one of the largest uninterrupted blocks of woodland in ND and the longest segment of the unaltered river valley in the state,” said Coleman.

Canoeing, Camping and More

The deep river valley is perfect for canoeing, hiking, biking, riding ATVs, and bird and wildlife viewing. In the winter, the Gorge is home to snowmobiling and skiing.

In the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park lies the Petrified Forest full of mushroom rock formations that will take your breath away.

The massive formations are created by the forces of rain and wind over time. Local resident and blogger Beth Schatz Kaylor raves about Papa’s Pumpkin Patch in Bismarck.

Petrified forest in North Dakota.
Petrified Forest in North Dakota.

“Tucked in the river bottoms of Bismarck, at the end of a gravel road under a dense canopy of cottonwood trees, you’ll find a magical place called Papa’s Pumpkin Patch where there are pumpkins pumpkins pumpkins laying all over the ground and children children children playing as children rarely get to do anymore.

Coteau des Prairies lodge. Rustic luxury.
Coteau des Prairies lodge. Rustic luxury.
Pembina gorge ATV riding.
Pembina Gorge ATV riding.

Jumping on hay bales, running through the forest, dangling from zip lines, riding in little wagons with noses pink from the autumn chill – and their parents following closely behind, their Canons zoomed in to capture every single gold-hued moment.”

Located in Cartwright, the Fairview Lift Bridge built in 1913 is made of timber and wood. The rustic-looking bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and recommended as a must-see by the tourism board.

Coleman has yet to visit the Bear Creek Lodge but says the lesser-known attraction was once former Verona Schools that were transformed into a hunting lodge.

The Enchanted Highway is as enchanted as it sounds. A collection of scrap metal sculptures for about 30 miles lines the highway, including sizeable grasshoppers and fish.A 30-foot high grasshopper along the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota.

The Big Mound Battlefield State Historic Site near Tappen is one of the state’s hidden gems marking the first major battle fought between General Henry H. Sibley’s volunteers and a group of Dakota Indians.

The Mandan Rodeo Days

Independence Day celebrations are meant to evoke the feeling of liberation and excitement to all around. The Mandan three-day celebration does just that.  Travel writer Erica Hager has celebrated the holiday in Mandan for 29 years even if it means traveling all the way from California.

“The ‘Mandan Rodeo Days’ 3-day patriotic celebration is a long-standing tradition for both the community and my family.

With activities for all ages, from an action-packed rodeo to the state’s largest parade, Mandan has perfected Independence Day celebration.

This small town is classic Americana at its best, it’s head-to-toe stars and stripes, red, white, and blue. Mandan is the place for an Independence Day family tradition,” said Hager.

Coleman noted the Coteau des Prairies Lodge near Havana as another less known accommodation.

“This lodge was built with Ponderosa pine timbers from another unique spot, at the Logging Camp Ranch near Amidon. This working ranch also welcomes visitors.”
What’s not to love about the often forgotten Bismarck-Deadwood Stage Trail located near Flasher? From 1877 to 1880 the supply line shipped goods and sent gold seekers to search for gold. The abandoned railroad is full of history and mystery.

Today it’s a treasure trove of history amidst the stark beauty that only the American West can provide. North Dakota is…well, BIG! The state is the third least populated and the fourth least densely populated state in the US. That means there is plenty of room for you and any other free-thinkers who want to come out there and settle.

Find out more at North Dakota’s tourism website. North Dakota sponsored this post, but the views are the author’s own.N