Having never been in North Dakota, neither of us knew what to expect. From watching Fargo we envisioned crazed folks with wood chippers and a snow blown country all year long. Therefore, we took the bypass around Fargo (lol) to get to our first stop. We camped at Jorgens Hollow Campground in the Sheyenne National Grasslands. It was a beautiful spot and the campground was new, free and nearly empty. Two other campsites were occupied: one by a couple that could be the wood chipper kind of folk, and another couple from Seattle who pulled out an accordion and played in the evening campfire – a first for us.
It was nice to finally bust out of the tree-clogged highways we have been traveling in east of the Mississippi River and in northern Minnesota to once again get to some gorgeous wide open spaces across North Dakota. We took the back roads across the state and saw some interesting things, like this farm implement display on the horizon – “harvesters in waiting”.
What totally surprised us along our drive was that one of the biggest export crops grown in North Dakota is sunflowers. We’ve never seen acres and acres of sunflower plants before. What an amazing sight.
We made our way to the southern unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The geology was a cross between the Badlands and the Painted Desert, very beautiful. The campground was full in the southern unit mostly because it was right next to a freeway and easily accessed. The Ranger said the northern unit, about 60 miles north, was never full so we went there instead to camp at Juniper Campground.
The northern unit was wrapped around the Little Missouri River and while similar to the southern unit, it was greener from the river. Also the bison in the park were very plentiful.
Pam and I went for an evening stroll to a nearby rock formation. In the evening dusk we were surprised by the bats heading out for an evening meal from their roost in the thin cracks in the rock wall.
We explored the park the next day and found some gorgeous overlooks down the river valley.
The bison are pretty happy just grazing around the park. Here was a huge bull just lounging by the road.
We left North Dakota with a new appreciation for the beauty of the state and headed into South Dakota. There was something of note on our map that was kind of off the beaten path so we had to take it. The road out there was fun to drive through the ranches of northwest South Dakota.
What was out there was the geographical center of the US (including Alaska and Hawaii). It’s marked with a lone US flag and a US Geological marker in the huge field.
After feeling very centered, we headed into Wyoming and our next adventure.