For most of my life I lived next door to North Dakota. It was never on our radar for a place to vacation and we didn’t know anyone who had ever been there with the exception of people, like us, who passed through ND to get to Yellowstone or Glacier National Park. Then they struck oil in North Dakota and there was a rush for oil jobs that would rival the Gold Rush. Tourism rates soured in 2013 with an estimated 24 million tourists and $3.6 billion in tourism revenues. That is $1.5 billion more than South Dakota with its badlands and Mount Rushmore. North Dakota is not very definitive as to what criteria they use to determine number of tourists or tourism revenue. I do know that lodging plays a large part and perhaps all of the men arriving in North Dakota and living in hotels and motels while working the oil fields are counted. In survey after survey North Dakota ranks in the bottom 10 States as a vacation destination.
So what is there to see in North Dakota and should it be in the top 20 places rather than the bottom 10 places to vacation or is it just a pass-through state on the road to other well-known vacation destinations?
A NORTHERN NORTH DAKOTA VACATION
Having gotten an early start from Perham, MN our first stop was for sustenance. Again, I rarely recommend restaurants but the Tower Travel Center in Tower City is just too good not to mention. In addition to serving meals that give you a lot of very good food for a very reasonable price they have a great bakery.
Back on the road we moved westward on Interstate 94 towards Jamestown which is know as “The Pride of the Prairie” as well as “Buffalo City”. From the highway we spotted the “World’s Largest Buffalo” monument. Standing 26 feet tall and weighing 60 tons it overlooks Jamestown from Frontier Village.
It wasn’t until 1991 that the North Dakota Buffalo Foundation was formed. Its mission is to preserve and foster awareness of the cultural and historical significance of the North American bison. The first five bison were brought to the area from Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Currently the foundation provides a home for approximately 30 bison on 200 acres pasture. In 1993 the National Buffalo Museum and information center was opened.
One of the buffalo in the herd is White Cloud. White Cloud was born on July 10, 1996, on a farm in Michigan. She joined the herd in Jamestown on May 23, 1997. White Cloud is a very rare and special albino bison. During the following nine years she gave birth to four brown calves and then on August 31, 2007, White Cloud gave birth to Dakota Miracle, a white buffalo. Dakota Miracle can be seen in the picture below. If you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of White Cloud. She is almost pure white.
White Cloud received her name from the “White Buffalo Calf Woman” legend.
In the mid-1960s Jamestown began recreating a small Midwestern town of the 1800s in the area of the World’s Largest Buffalo monument. “Frontier Village” has continued to grow throughout the years with many of the buildings coming from Eldridge, a small town near Jamestown. The Village, in addition to having a jail, post office, fire department, and saloon has added other buildings including Western Novelist Louis L’Amour writer’s shack. L’Amour spent the first 15 years of his life in Jamestown, ND.
North Dakota is one of the doorways to the West and Jamestown has certainly done an amazing job in preserving its history. Some of the places to visit in Jamestown are the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame, and the American Gothic style St. James Basilica Church. The Stutsman County Memorial Museum was originally the Lutz Mansion built by lumberman George Lutz. It later became a home for the aged and then in 1965 it became the museum.
Jamestown is definitely a contender for a great place to spend at least a day.