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May 2020: Reader Reply

What is North Dakota’s best-kept secret place to visit?

I was born and raised in North Dakota and nurtured at a young age with a love for all it has to offer. I am always amazed by fellow North Dakotans who have never traveled off the major artery roads. Best-kept secrets can be found off every off-ramp of Interstate 94, county road or highway.

Within a half-hour drive of my little hamlet of Hazen is a treasure trove of possibilities. Snap a selfie with the larger-than-life Salem Sue. Retrace parts of the journey documented by Lewis and Clark. Watch the buffalo or hike a trail at Cross Ranch State Park. View artifacts at the Knife River Indian Villages. Tour a fish hatchery while peering up at one of the world’s largest dams.

Don’t even get me started on all the amazing pitstops for coffee, pie or ice cream! Be bold. Fill the gas tank and simply wander. Discover. Enjoy!

Kristi Pfliger-Keller, member of Roughrider Electric Cooperative

As a homeschool mom, I am constantly on the lookout for fun, yet educational, places for my family to visit. So far, one of our favorites, and, in my opinion, one of North Dakota’s best-kept secrets, is the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery and the Garrison Dam itself! So many people have heard of this place, of course, but have you actually been there? That’s why it's a secret!

We try to make at least one annual trip to the hatchery in the summer. Although, I am told it is extra amazing in the spring and they even have opportunities to see the burbot in the winter! Whenever we go, whether June, July or August, we try to catch a guided tour. You can do self-guided tours, but the staff at the hatchery has always been part of the appeal. It seems that volunteers come from all over the United States to be tour guides. They are wonderful people, both colorful and kind, and they take the time to continually learn not only about the hatchery, but the state, as well.

And, though the tours are a highlight to this great day trip (especially the “hands-on” tank), there is so much more available here – from fish camps for the kiddos and amazing hiking trails in the summertime, to the spectacularly groomed cross-country ski trails in the winter.

Once you are done at the hatchery, take a trip to the top of the dam and catch a picnic lunch in one of the scenic outlooks. It can get a little windy, but it’s worth the view!

Don’t forget to check out the Garrison Dam Powerhouse! There are scheduled tours during the summer, or you can make one by appointment. Not only is it an incredible learning opportunity, but it’s just an awesome experience. The size and scope of the place is staggering!

We are a blessed state!

Brooke Zimmerman, member of Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative

I left North Dakota when I was 21. For the next 37 years, I lived in several different metropolitan areas across the United States. I never failed, however, to come back to North Dakota for a summer vacation. I was only gone 10 years or so when I realized what I missed the most – a good country bar to have a beer on a summer afternoon!

What’s my definition of good? A bit divey, but still cozy. Charming, but with an edge. Bonus points if there are motorcycles parked out front, dollars tacked to the ceiling and pickled eggs on the shelf behind the bar. The kind of place where everyone’s head snaps around when you walk in the door, and they all listen carefully to what you order. But by the time you’re on your second (or maybe third) beer, you’re treated like a regular.

As the years went by, and my children became adults, they, too, traveled to North Dakota each year for their summer vacation (and still do), and their No. 1 request for a place to visit was a divey-ish bar!

I now live in Bismarck, so my best-kept secret place not only meets nearly all of my bar requirements, but also is a very pleasurable afternoon drive. I’m talking about Rusty’s Saloon in St. Anthony. Great ambience, eclectic clientele, and if eating is important to you, good steaks, too!

Gus Mueller, member of Capital Electric Cooperative

Southeastern North Dakota is known for its prairie landscape, but Fort Ransom State Park is a notable exception. The heavily wooded trails along the Sheyenne River are the perfect forest escape and a great spot for shady picnics during warm weather. There are more than 20 miles of non-motorized trails to explore on foot, on a mountain bike or on horseback.

You can even hike a short, 2.2-mile segment of the North Country Trail, which (when completed) will stretch 4,600 miles from Vermont to North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea State Park. It's fascinating (and a little mind-boggling) to be able to set foot on a trail that long.

Alicia Underlee Nelson, member of Cass County Electric Cooperative

How about Marmarth? The near-ghost town has an amazing history starting with ranching in the 1880s. At the time Teddy Roosevelt was ranching near Medora, the OX ranch was in operation just south of present-day Marmarth. The OX was owned by Texans who drove longhorns from the south to the open range of Dakota Territory. lf you drive south of town across the Beaver Creek bridge and look to the west, you will be looking at the site of the OX ranch house. The house was replaced by railroad stockyards around 1910. Marmarth boomed as a railroad shipping point with a population in the thousands. As dirt trails became highways and engines evolved from steam to diesel, the city declined.

The history may not keep visitors occupied, but Van Horn’s Antique Auto Museum and Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor certainly will. Jim Van Horn has a collection of beautiful restored and original vehicles, one belonging to Gen. Douglas MacArthur at one time. The most remarkable exhibit has to be one of the original four stages that hauled people and freight from Medora to Deadwood. There are many other museum features, including many volumes of western North Dakota rodeo photos. Log cabin rentals and RV hookups are available.

Visitors should check out the Mystic Theatre when in Marmarth, the oldest theater in North Dakota constructed for the purpose of showing movies, built around 1914.

lf your interest is more inclined to the outdoors, Marmarth will not disappoint. The Little Missouri, Beaver Creek, badlands and public lands for roaming are all attractive diversions. The badlands around Marmarth are known for dinosaur fossils. Wild critters for viewing or hunting are abundant. The right hole in the Little Missouri might produce a 10-pound catfish.

Oil production has brought some life back to the city, but the ranchers opened the Marmarth area originally. For 140 years, they have been the one constant. They are still taking care of business. Hopefully, they don't mind an occasional visitor.

Gary Rankin, member of Nodak Electric Cooperative


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