North Dakota is the first one of a few states that we are visiting for the first time with our Airstream. It is really exciting to be venturing into new territory for us which hasn’t happened for a couple of years.
Our first stop is Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It is one of the biggest attractions in North Dakota and one of their three national park sites.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is named because the former president came out here to learn about the west. Being a New Yorker, he longed for the wild and rugged west. He grew up in a wealthy New York city family but as an adult, he wanted to experience the west first hand.
He came out here and bought a small cabin from a local rancher that has been relocated here at the visitor center. Like Marty McFly in Back to the Future 3, he came out to North Dakota dressed in what he thought was appropriate western wear. The cowboys here practically laughed in his face when they saw him had they not been paid handsomely by him for the modest cabin he just bought.
Today the bison herd is managed that not too many are roaming around. Theodore Roosevelt initially wanted to come out here to hunt himself a bison. After he got here, he learned that the population had been decimated by the fur trade. It was a major part of what turned him into the conservationist president who brought us National Parks like Yosemite.
Theodore Roosevelt also came out here shortly after he lost his wife and mother in the same year to illnesses. It was a place he came to reflect and make some major decisions about his life.
We took a couple of short hikes around the park and it was fantastic. For the most part, my seasonal allergies with the blooming flowers of Oregon had gone away but after this walk through the blooming wild flowers, it came back full force.
Another Junior Ranger badge in the bag. Literally. Now the girls have so many badges, they no longer fit on the hat. We have a zip lock bag for each kid and they are full of badges. The ones that go on the hat are now just for the sites that are officially designated ‘National Parks’. That means this badge will make it onto the hats.
We happen to be here during the 4th of July so we found a spot up the hill a little bit to see the fireworks from the town of Medora, ND. Luka was not a big fan of the exploding fire so we ended up ditching out early.
While we were here, we were unable to find a site at the campground in the National Park because of the holiday. When we drove through the campground, we noticed that people had come weeks in advance and paid for all of the days prior to the holiday in order to secure a site. We ended up back tracking west a bit and camped at a nice campground in Buffalo Gap National Grassland campground which was cheaper and mostly empty.
We left Theodore Roosevelt and headed north. There are two other national park sites in the state so we decided to make time to see them all. Right up here on the border of North Dakota and Montana is the reconstructed Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site.
This was one of the busiest trading posts in the west back in the heyday. The Missouri River was much higher and came right up to the back of the Fort. Giant ships carrying goods from all over the country and Europe would dock here to bring in western goods and haul away fur.
As you would expect, North Dakota is not a hot bed for tourism. But the rangers here were fantastic and gave us a great peek into what life was like here in the 1800s.
The girls traded faux buffalo pelts for bracelets just like people would have back in those days, as part of the Junior Ranger program.
As we drove east across more of North Dakota, we got a sense of what today’s economy is all about. All of the wide expanses of land is now operated by oil companies extracting crude from beneath the ground. Temporary structures to support the industry have popped up everywhere. When I stopped to get fuel at a gas station, we immediately got an offer to buy our trailer as living quarters are scarce and people who came here to work all make well over six digit incomes. You just have to be willing to live here all year long. Yes, that includes too bitterly cold winters.
The last national park site we will be stopping by is Knife River Indian Village National Historic Site.
We stayed at the Sakagawea Campground in the town of Stanton, ND. Even though we are in North Dakota, summer is here and we needed a spot to plug in so we can run some AC.
Here at the playground, the kids got introduced to tether ball.
Yeah, I saw that coming. Sooner or later someone was going to get whacked in the head.
Luka plotting his revenge.
The villages here along Knife River were home to Sakagawea and her son. Lewis and Clark stopped here both on their way to and from St. Louis. The presence of Sakagawea was critical to the safety of the people on the expedition as it showed that they were peaceful people to have a female Indian and her son in the party.
Villages were full of earth lodges like this that would have been home to several generations of people as well as their animals. This reconstruction gives a glimpse to their life here before the village was abandoned after the smallpox epidemic in 1837. Only 31 out of the 1,600 villagers survived.
It’s hard to tell in the photo but there are clear depressions still in the field where the earth lodges once stood.
Before we make our way out of North Dakota, we will spend the night in a Walmart in Fargo.
I’d like to officially apologize to Walmart for failing to use my jack stand in their parking lot. I didn’t realize the asphalt there is so soft.
over and out,