Monthly Archives: June 2014
I moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota a few years back from Wisconsin to take a job at the University of North Dakota and the one thing that I heard from many people (not everyone, but quite a few) is that North Dakota is boring. Its flat prairie and there is not much to do in terms of outdoor adventures and at first glance that is true. North Dakota is the Northern Great Plains, and yes it is flat for much of the state, however, I soon learned that North Dakota is home to Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP). Wisconsin doesn’t even have a national park (its got national forests, rivers, and state parks out the wazoo, but no National Parks)! So over Memorial Day weekend i decided to take a road trip to the North Unit of TRNP and see what it is all about.
I left early in the morning to beat the “traffic” on Hwy 2 and after a very doable 6hr drive (I drive slow) I was entering Watford City. Now up until that point I will say that all I saw was prairie, a few lakes, and the Bakken oil fields, but as I made my way 15 miles south of Watford City…BAM!!! I was in the middle of North Dakota Badlands! They literally came out of nowhere.
Now the North Unit of TRNP is much smaller than the South Unit which is located 68 miles south and closer to Medora, ND, but I have to say the North Unit is underrated. The first thing you see upon entering the park are the badlands formations and the layers of sediments. The pictures do not do it justice, as there were numerous colors from blue-grey, orange, red, brown, black, and green. There were also buffalo just hanging out in the campground. I actually had 2 walk right through my campsite while i was putting some equipment away in my car.
The other great thing about the park is that even though it is smaller than the South Unit or Badlands National Park in South Dakota, it is also very intimate. When hike the 36+ miles of trail you are scrambling over rocks and badlands formations, you are following in the footsteps of buffalo herds, you are climbing up hill through a juniper and ash forest, you are truly a part of TRNP, not just getting scenic overlooks. It’s also nice that the North Unit is not crowded. When I arrived on Thursday before Memorial Day there were 4 other groups in the campground and by the Sunday there was still 20 sites available.
The trails were very rugged which was a lot of fun and exhausting at the same time.. I hiked for almost 4 hours each day I was there and still did not see everything. I also learned a lot from the Nature Trail leaflets on the Little Mo Trail and Caprock Coulee Trail (in my opinion the best representation of the entire park and it was only 4.4 miles round trip). Did you know that there are 3 different varieties of sagebrush in the park and each has a unique fragrance? I was only able to find 2 of them (Silver Sage and Big Sage), but sure enough they both had a different smell!
Another great thing about TRNP is that it is within spitting distance of the Maah Daah Hey Trail. A 97 mile trail that one can hike, bike, or horseback ride on through the North Dakota badlands and rolling prairie.
North Dakota is boring?!?!? There is almost too much to do! And for those that live in Grand Forks and a 6 hr drive is too long, Turtle River State Park is just down the road and Devil’s Lake just little bit farther. Get outside and explore the wonders of North Dakota and the surrounding areas and if someone tells you that North Dakota is boring just tell them that they are just not looking hard enough.