Discover the wonders of Wahpeton
by Luann Dart
Cast a line into the Red River in the shadow of the world’s largest catfish sculpture. Then visit Tal, North Dakota’s only orangutan, at the Chahinkapa Zoo. Or swing a club at the Bois de Sioux Golf Course, where you’ll golf in two different states on one course.
Wahpeton has plenty of unique family-friendly fun in the Red River Valley.
“We are a smaller community, but there is a lot going on here,” says Cheryl O’Meara, the economic development assistant with the city of Wahpeton.
“There’s plenty to do in our city. Start with information and more behind the Red Door,” says Jane Priebe, the city’s economic development director.
The downtown Red Door Art Gallery, which displays and sells local and regional art, also serves as the Wahpeton visitors center. The vivid paintings of Fritz Scholder, a Native American artist, and Erdrich family literary art are in the permanent collection at the gallery.
“We have fun little shops on our main street and, yes, the Red Door Art Gallery that is also our visitors center. There is plenty of local art to see and buy. Walk along the Mural Wall at Fourth Street and Dakota Avenue and find 23 hidden objects in the painting,” Priebe says.
“We are a great day trip community with wonderful places to see and experience! We have high walkability and over eight miles of shared-use paths,” Priebe says.
“Our biggest attraction is Chahinkapa Zoo, one of the finest, greenest, accredited zoos in the nation,” she says. “The only orangutan in the state can play an instrument and he’s a painter!”
The Chahinkapa Zoo is home to more than 300 animals representing six continents and 100 species, including a Bengal tiger, snow leopards, kangaroos and camels. The zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily May 12-Sept. 4.
Just next to the zoo, visitors can take a spin on the Prairie Rose Carousel. The carousel is one of only three fully restored 1926 Spillman carousels in the United States. Indoors and out of the weather, the carousel offers rides for $2.
Also near the zoo, the outdoor sculpture garden in Chahinkapa Park includes two new sculptures added this year.
Along the Red River in Wahpeton, visitors will find the world’s largest catfish sculpture, beaconing fishermen to the Kidder Recreation Area in north Wahpeton. The catfish sculpture is 40 feet long, 12 feet tall and known as “The Wahpper.”
“There are many opportunities to fish along the river, some in the park and some in the recreation area,” O’Meara says, with docks for boaters or shoreline fishing.
“The Wahpper” is a great photo opportunity, especially for those who catch something, Priebe adds.
The Red River offers other opportunities in Wahpeton, too.
“Kayak or canoe on the Red River that flows north. That’s right – north,” she says.
“Like to golf? We have a course with two ZIP codes, with a full nine holes in Minnesota and nine in North Dakota,” she says. The 18-hole Bois de Sioux Golf Course is spread across two states.
History buffs can visit the Richland County Historical Museum, home of the Rosemeade Pottery Interpretive Center, the Esther Horne Native American collection and the world’s largest guestbook. Or travel back in time at the Fort Abercrombie State Historic Site, 17 miles north of Wahpeton on County Road 44. Visitors can tour the first permanent U.S. military fort established in North Dakota.
Another interesting piece of history in Wahpeton is the Ringling Brothers Circus Monument south of Wahpeton. The monument memorializes two circus workers who were killed while putting up a circus tent during a storm in 1897. The monument replicates the post which was shattered by a bolt of lightning during the storm.
Wahpeton also offers local entertainment and dining opportunities.
“Just want to relax? We’ll soon have plenty of outdoor eating and great venues when the new Boiler Room and the City Brew Hall come online this year. For now, you can enjoy the new Dakota Coffee, which also serves beer and wine, or get your fill at El-Toro Mexican restaurant. Fine dining and the best steak around is found at Prante’s,” Priebe says.
To tour Wahpeton, download the city’s rTown mobile app, which is a digital guide to events, attractions and businesses.
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