An Eclectic Mix of Northern Prairie Cultures on One Tank

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May 13, 2009

When first-time visitors to North Dakota relate their vacation stories to friends and family, one of the subjects that always comes up is how warm and friendly the locals are. This should come as no surprise, since the Sioux word for “friend” is “Dakota.” North Dakota has long been regarded as one of the friendliest and safest states in America, with an easy pace of life that leads to a largely stress-free existence. This one tank trip from Woodall’s will show you why it’s the perfect place for an RV trip to escape big city hassles.

Minot makes a perfect staging point for just such an escape. Locals refer to it as the Magic City; there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy while in town, such as bird watching, camping, hiking, even indoor waterslides! There’s plenty of arts and culture to experience, with a thriving local theater scene, as well as several museums in and around the area. One spot of interest is the Scandinavian Heritage Center, an outdoor museum that’s open year-round, which celebrates Minot’s Scandinavian settlers. If you plan your trip in mid-October, you can take part in the glorious Norsk Hostfest, a week-long event that draws tens of thousands of people each year; the Hostfest is filled with lots of music, fine food and authentic Norse handicrafts.

Getting out on the road, head east on Highway 2 for 62 picturesque miles until you come to the town of Rugby. Rugby gets busy during the autumn hunting season, as it’s a prime place to set out into the woods to bring in either waterfowl or big game. Rugby’s an excellent spot for year-round fishing, swimming and camping, with plenty of local lakes, featuring some of the clearest water to be found anywhere. The Prairie Village Museum is a fascinating site to check out while in town. It features a showcase of antique firearms, an exhibit featuring Indian and Eskimo artifacts, and several other displays of items that contributed to life on the frontier.

Another point of interest in Rugby is the Geographical Center of North America. This spot in Pierce County is the exact center of the North American land mass, as determined by the 1931 U.S. Geological Survey.

Heading north on Highway 3 for 31 miles, you come to our next stop, Dunseith. This quaint town is the home of one of the most beautiful locations in the area, the International Peace Garden. The Garden draws approximately 150,000 visitors each year, and is situated on the North Dakota/Manitoba border. The massive grounds offer lush, colorful gardens and wilderness areas. It’s a great place to spend the better part of a day. Hop on over to Lake Metigoshe State Park while you’re in town for some great nature-watching and outdoor recreation in a more rustic setting.

fort-mandan-gateDevil’s Lake
Cruising east on the US-281 for 76 miles brings us to Highway 2, which you’ll want to merge with to get to our final stop of Devil’s Lake, some 18 miles later. In addition to its historic downtown area filled with all kinds of eclectic shops and surrounding woodland area (which is perfect for setting up camp to fish, hike, and just enjoy nature), Devil’s Lake also plays host to historic Fort Totten. The fort was built in 1867 and stands largely unchanged from the days when it stood as a defender of transportation and supply routes. The grounds include several original buildings, and the museum showcases various programs depicting life during the late 19th Century. This fascinating site is open daily to the public and is well worth a look-see!

With all this natural beauty at our fingertips, it’s easy to see why North Dakota is known as the Peace Garden State – a visit within these borders is like a shower of relaxation, washing all our stresses away.

Don’t miss a visit to this area sponsor: The North Dakota Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is located at historic Fort Mandan, where the Lewis & Clark expedition stayed during their journey more than 200 years ago!

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  1. Pingback: Anonymous

  2. Byron,
    Thanks for the great pointers! Now everyone will know exactly what to see and do to get the most from their trip to North Dakota!


  3. Byron Engen

    Being originally from ND I enjoyed your writeup about my birth state. The southwest part of ND has much to see and do also. Theodore Roosevelt National Park at Medora is a must for anyone visiting the state. The free ranging bison – come right into campground; the feral (abandoned by early settlers and not wild) horses that roam the park (we had one in our campground); rustic camping, but free dump station in Medora; the scenic drive and walks through the park (originally called ND Badlands). Also in Medora is a professional outdoor evening drama and be sure to partake of the pitchfork fondue — steaks done to your order fondue style while speared on pitchforks. The elk, cowboys, Marque de Mores home where Theodore Roosevelt visited while in ND, and much more in a little city of 100 people.
    A few miles east is the ND state capital in Bismarck — not your typical capital building, but a “skyscraper” on the plains.
    I could go on about other exciting things to do but that can come later. I love my home state even though I haven’t lived there in over 50 years.