By Jack Dura
Farmer Staff Writer
Here’s some unsettling news: As ranked by a finance website, North Dakota is the fifth worst state for summer road trips.
WalletHub graded North Dakota among all 50 states according to gas prices, road quality and attractions. The state ranked 46th overall and notched 41st for activities.
Sorry, I guess North Dakota isn’t as scenic like Minnesota’s forests and Montana’s mountains. That’s not to say the prairie isn’t pretty.
Why, visitation at Theodore Roosevelt National Park leapt 29 percent last year from 2015, according to National Park Service stats.
The New York Times listed the park in its top five of “52 places to go in 2016.”
And I’ll add, the park’s South Unit is conveniently located off I-94, gated at Medora, which is a whole other adventure unto itself.
We don’t have huge destination highways like Minnesota’s Highway 61 with 150 miles of North Shore resorts, lake views and lighthouses from Duluth to Canada.
Minnesota, by the way, ranked eighth for summer road trips. Montana took 41st place.
I suppose if you’re grading the states on accessibility to destinations and scenery, North Dakota won’t rank very high. There’s some crisscrossing involved.
Like Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge, to see thousands of American white pelicans flock to the globally important bird area.
Hang a right on the highway at Medina, go north and then have fun finding your way. It’s not as easy as pulling off at Palisade Head, and just watch your passengers’ eyes when Google Maps leads you over a prairie trail.
Other hotspots in the state aren’t like jumping in the car to go to Bismarck. Take the Turtle Mountains: That route looks like a staircase from Watford City: East, north, then east, then north, east again, then north, east again, almost to Canada, then hello, Lake Metigoshe.
Lakes aren’t as numerous here as in Minnesota, with its dubiously counted 10,000 lakes (cough, ponds and sloughs).
Devils Lake, Sakakawea, Metigoshe. What else?
Interestingly, there’s a great concentration of state parks and historic sites along the Missouri River’s North Dakota route, and state highways 1804 and 1806 can take you there.
Many of these places are parks built on history, like Forts Abraham Lincoln and Stevenson state parks showcasing early Dakota military history.
Gen. George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh Cavalry left Fort Lincoln to march west to the Little Bighorn.
Double Ditch Indian Village north of Bismarck is a riverside stroll through 300 years of Mandan history.
These are all attractions. They’re all on the roadside.
So I’ll debate WalletHub on this one: Come to North Dakota. Take a trip. I’ll help. I’ll drive.
I respect your calculations but I don’t think they’ll hold up.
Take Exit 27 for Medora. This is summer in North Dakota.