For an article with a headline like the one you see above, it’s a given that I could write hundreds of words on the well-known, well-mapped points of interest on North Dakota’s terrain.
I could write about the topography of the state, from valley to plains to badlands, or the Red River, in all its floody vastness. Our state’s highest point would be perfect fodder for an article such as this, as would the Burning Coal Vein, a beauty I’ve already lighted upon.
But no, I refuse to present upon the common and known features of NoDak’s lands. Nope, not gonna even touch them. I’m going to explore three of the best-kept secrets from each side of the state’s topography, east and west. There’s interestingly a lot to choose from, and I’m happy to say I’ve visited some of them myself.
Let’s start with eastern North Dakota. My home and the Gateway to the West. As anyone can tell, it’s flat. Very, very, very flat. Some people complain, but I do not. It’s a gift to be able to see 12 counties by climbing a tree, and this flatness really lends itself to our first geographic point of interest: Highway 46.
North Dakota Highway 46, in fact, is the longest straight road in North America. No kiddin’. For over 123 miles, this two-lane road is straight as a ramrod, swaying only once or twice and for purely nominal purposes. Clear through from Hickson to Streeter, this road is an arrow, and having driven it several times, I can attest to its undeniable straightness.
For our second east NoDak point of geographic interest, I turn to Ransom County. Riparian forest land abounds in this county, quietly sequestered southwest of Fargo. This gem I am about to mention is the only one in the state, and makes for a great outdoor adventure. It is our state’s only waterfall.
Follow the North Country Trail and you will find it. Nearly six feet in height and powered with a strong trickle, NoDak’s only waterfall is well worth the two-and-a-half-mile hike to see it. I suggest visiting between August and November, as the riparian landscape really entreats the mosquitos. Plan a hike/visit to the waterfall, and let me know if it’s deserving of its designation as a top three spot to see in eastern North Dakota.
Finally, I turn to Pembina for the third and last of my geographic highlights in this column. While our state’s highest point is marked and accessible at its site in Slope County, our state’s lowest point is somewhat shrouded in mystery. According to several sources, the Red River at Pembina, just before the Manitoba border, is North Dakota’s lowest point, at 750 feet above sea level. But where exactly is it?
So far my efforts to establish any kind of physical recognition of this spot are inconclusive, as City of Pembina and North Dakota Tourism officials remain silent. I would not be surprised if the spot goes unnoticed. After all, what’s so great about a state’s lowest point?
I, however, fully embrace the Red River at Pembina. I wish and hope it is marked because, jeez, that’d be special. It’d make a great day drive from White Butte out west to Pembina in the northeast, highest to lowest, dropping over 2,700 feet in elevation. But I digress. Visit it if you can, though!
Next issue, we’ll turn to western North Dakota, a proverbial Wild West at the moment, what with all the oil rage and action we hear coming from that part of the state. There’re some interesting spots out there besides White Butte and the Burning Coal Vein, so hold on to your hat when I let you in on those secrets Thursday.