Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

Real People. Real Jobs. Real Adventures.

Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Why not take a staycation?...

Posted 12/10/19 (Tue)

In the eight years I worked at the Minot Daily News, I did a segment every Monday called “On the Road.” It was well received by many readers and I really enjoyed doing it.

“On the Road” followed a long-time curiosity I’ve had about people and places in North Dakota that don’t get much attention if any.

After high school, I began traveling when I had the chance and discovered some of the state’s secret treasures.

•The Lake Metigoshe area is a popular spot for people in the northwest, but most people south of I-94 don’t know anything about the third largest lake in the state.

Everyone should. It’s North Dakota’s best-kept secret.

•Right up there with Lake Metigoshe is the Pembina Gorge. Have you ever been there? If not, it’s stunning no matter what time of year you go. There’s always something to see and do in the gorge.

•Can anyone outside of Valley City describe the community of Kathryn, or the drive to get there? If not, you need to take the county road south of Valley City that takes you right to Kathryn. It will shock you, especially in the fall. And while your at it, continue the picturesque drive to Fort Ransom and get a forgotten history lesson.

•If you take N.D. Highway 1804 south of Bismarck and drive that winding road all the way to N.D. Highway 13, which is west of Linton, you’ll find another surprise.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of acres of irrigated potatoes north of Beaver Bay that are generally contracted to Cavendish Farms in Jamestown.

•Cartwright, nearly on the Montana border in McKenzie County near Fairview, is another potato and sugar beet producing area. It’s in the Yellowstone River Valley and is just like the Red, only on a smaller scale.

•Have you ever heard of Battleview? Most people haven’t. There isn’t much there anymore, but if you visit, you’ll find some striking scenery of cattle and farm country blended together.

•The confluence of the Pembina and Red rivers is also a significant spot in North Dakota, at least historically, yet few people have visited. If you don’t know, the confluence was the site of the first settlement in what would later become Dakota Territory. The Northwest Company built a fort there in 1797, two years before George Washington died.

•Have you ever seen Lake Ashtabula? Again, people in Valley City, as well as Cooperstown, will most likely know all about it. Outside the area, however, it’s doubtful many people know about the recreation there.

It has become quite a popular cottage destination, as more people build cabins along either side of the north-south lake.

•There’s an obscure place northeast of Dunseith that was probably my most intriguing “On the Road” segment.

Just below the Canadian border, there is a tucked away spring  that was said to be a Holy Water spring used by Father Bellecourt in the 1840s and ‘50s.

The spring was hard to find. It was in a grove of trees in what is now a livestock pasture.

The day I found the spring, crocuses were blooming all over the place.

•Speaking of Dunseith, north of town is San Haven, a sanitarium owned by the state that is now vacant and vandalized.

It’s a huge place, it’s just too bad it has to sit vacant as people traveling U.S. Highway 281 can see.

•Amidon is a little town of only 22 people in the southwest, but there are three unique things about Amidon. It’s the county seat of Slope County and more people work in the courthouse than population of the community.

As you drive through town on U.S. Highway 85, you’ll see a police car sitting in an alley with a radar gun at the ready. It’s actually an old Royal Canadian Mounted Police car with a dummy sitting in it to deter speeders.

•Thirdly, White Butte is south of Amidon. It sports the highest elevation in North Dakota at 3,506 feet. It’s obviously a very large hill and when you compare sea level at Pembina at about 700 feet, that’s quite a change in elevation from northeast to southwest.

•Riverdale is a unique community. It was built by the U.S. government in the 1940s to house workers building the Garrison Dam. If you drive around town, it will feel like you are on an air force base or Army post, just by the way the town site is laid out.

There are literally thousands of spots like this across the state. Typically, all we see is what’s on the interstate highways, which is pretty dull. We all need to explore and find those treasures.