At Bismarck State College today, two men who love North Dakota are going to sit on the stage and share with us their ten best places in North Dakota as part of BSCâ€™s Community Conversations program. Clay Jenkinson and Larry Skogen surely know a lot about our state.Â I am eager to hear what they have to say. Meanwhile, I have decided to compile my own list, and to ask anyone else interested to compile theirs, and I will put all of this on my blog. Hereâ€™s my list, with a note of explanation for each. They are in no particular order, except for Bullion Butte, which is far and away No. 1, and will be on their list as well. Send yours and I will share. (Iâ€™ll bet Clay and I have at least half our lists in common. Iâ€™ll report that later.)
JIM FUGLIEâ€™S TEN BEST PLACES IN NORTH DAKOTA
- The top of Bullion Butte in the extreme southwest corner of Billings County (with just a bit of its west face in Golden Valley County). North Dakotaâ€™s most spectacular view and least accessible place
- Theodore Rooseveltâ€™s Elkhorn Ranch site. North Dakotaâ€™s most peaceful place.
- The North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, particularly the view from the Little Missouri River in a canoe about a mile west of Juniper Campground, where you see the Little Missouriâ€™s highest and widest sheer canyon wall.
- County Road 55 west of Walhalla, through the Pembina Gorge and over the Red River Valley escarpment, west across the Little Pembina River to N.D. Highway 1, a 20 mile drive.
- The North Dakota State Capitol and Grounds. North Dakotaâ€™s most prideful and overstated structure, yet truly a peopleâ€™s place, especially when looking south toward the Huff Hills from the 18th floor observation deck or celebrating on the lawn, with thousands of fellow North Dakotans, our nationâ€™s independence, with symphonic music and fireworks on the 4th of July.
- Medicine Hole, and the hike up to it, in the Killdeer Mountains. Mystery, geography, geology and an aspen forest in the middle of the Great Plains.
- The Pastime Bar and Steakhouse in Hettinger on the opening night of pheasant season. A sea of hunter orange and camouflage with sirloin steaks and Windsor cokes, replicated in dozensâ€”but probably not hundredsâ€”of similar small town bars across the state.
- A personal and private place: a low-water crossing of Cedar Creek on a school section in what should have been a part of the Cedar River National Grasslands north of Lemmon, SD, just inside the North Dakota border. A wildlife haven meant to be experienced only on foot on the banks of my favorite creek (as opposed to my favorite river, which is the Little Missouri).
- Broadway Avenue in downtown Fargo on a late summer or early fall evening. An urban delight of college students and other young adults strolling between pubs, shops and restaurants, while rollerbladers, skateboarders, hand-holding walkers and teen drivers maneuver through their mating rituals.
- North Dakotaâ€™s three world-class architectural wonders, in Grand Forks and Medora: The Burning Hills Amphitheatre and Bully Pulpit Golf Course in Medora and the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks. Many North Dakotans may voice disapproval of one or more of these, but the fact remains that the carving of a 2,800 seat ultraâ€”modern outdoor theatre into a Bad Lands hillside, the environmentally-conscious design of a championship golf course along the banks of the Little Missouri River and up into the Bad Lands bluffs, and the $100 million hockey arena in Grand Forks are facilities that match any in the world.
Honorable Mention: A Dozen More Places That Are Hard To Leave Off Any â€œBest Places inâ€ List (And All Places I Have Been to Enough Times to Be Familiar With them)
- Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Home to, in most years, North Americaâ€™s largest breeding pelican flock
- Cross Ranch State Park and Smith Grove in the Missouri River Valley north of Mandan. Riparian forest, centuries old trees, camping on the banks of Lewis and Clarkâ€™s water highway to the West.
- LaMoure County Memorial Park near Grand Rapids. Nine delightful golf holes, a campsite on the bank of the James River, and a summer theater that takes you back to your high school days with the quality of a big-city production.
- Dykshoorn Park in downtown Mandan on summer evenings when local musical groups entertain in the bandshell. And wandering among hundreds of arts and crafts displays over the 4th of July holidays during Art In the Park.
- Menardâ€™s in Bismarck (and probably other cities in the state) on a Saturday morning, when white-collar would-be handymen and gardeners wander the aisles looking for supplies for their weekend projects.
- Captain Jackâ€™s in Bismarck and Happy Harryâ€™s in Fargo and Grand Forks. Where North Dakotans go for a wine experience as good as they might expect anywhere in America.
- The Grandstand at the North Dakota State Fairground. For nine marvelous nights in July, big-name country and rock acts take the stage to entertain during North Dakotaâ€™s summer break.
- Any of North Dakotaâ€™s five Indian gaming casinos. Real, live Las Vegas-style gambling tucked into corners of our five reservations.
- Lake Sakakawea. Haven for fishing, jet-skiing, sailing, motorboating, or just relaxing with a beer or a gin and tonic on a pontoon, houseboat or gravelly beach on one of Americaâ€™s largest lakes.
- The International Peace Garden and Lake Metigoshe State Park in the Turtle Mountains in August. In most years, 100,000 or more flowers in bloom at the Peace Garden and the state park offers a spectacular hike on a marked walking trail through the aspen and oak forest just before bedding down in a tent beside the lake.
- Lillianâ€™s Most Secret Juneberry Patch in the Bad Lands in mid-July. I could not point you to it. She last took me there in 2009 where we picked gallons of the precious berries, all day and into the evening, entering on one road and exiting on another so that even I, her trusted husband, would not be able to find my way back without herâ€”or tell anyone how to get there.
- A hole in the ice on Devils Lake (or, I guess, any number of small perch lakes in North Dakota) in January, over which I can stare down at my bobber while seated on a pickle pail with a little jigging rod in my hand and a pile of frozen perch at my feet.