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Mitch's Blog


Saturday, June 18, 2005

Part 2 of Last Week's Adventure

Well, I woke up today and thought I should continue with the second part of my travels late last week and last weekend.

So, after the registration program concluded at UND last Friday, we spent a little bit more time exploring the city of Grand Forks. I, for one, went back down to the park area called “the Greenway” right along the Grand Forks side of the Red River. This was the same place I visited last time I was in Grand Forks in January. If you remember, I posted quite a few pictures of both the Greenway as well as the city of Grand Forks.

Anyway, I was just curious as to what everything looked like when it wasn’t buried under a good two feet of snow. I wasn’t let down, either, since I found that the entire area looks much better with bright green grass surrounding everything.

The water of the Red River was a little high, thanks to rains that the area had received in the first week of June. Some of the trees that are usually immediately next to the flowing water had water coming up to their trunks, but other than that, there weren’t any other visible effects of a flood. The cities of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks are pretty well prepared for any minor flood of Red River, to say the least.

After I was done at the Greenway, we pretty much got out of town, ready to head both west and south toward Jamestown.

About 15 or 20 miles west of Grand Forks, the tremendously flat land that Grand Forks is located in gives way to a landscape with gently rolling hills and an ever decreasing amount of trees. If you know your geology, you know that this is the spot where you exit out of the lakebed of the once mighty Lake Agassiz and cross into prairie country.

There aren’t many towns to speak of in the 80-or-so miles between Grand Forks and Devils Lake. Larimore, with a population of 1,433, and Lakota, with a population of 781, are the largest communities you’ll encounter along U.S. Highway 2, and Larimore doesn’t even really count since it’s only accessible by getting off of the highway and traveling for a couple of miles along a different, state highway.

We stopped for some gas in Lakota, a town whose name means friend in – I’m assuming – a Sioux language. The gas station we went to was nevertheless a bit unique, since all it only had pumps: there was no “convenience store” portion. If you didn’t have a credit card to pay for your gas, you were, unfortunately, out of luck.

The city of Devils Lake was the next stop on our tour. With a population of 7,222, Devils Lake is the largest place on Highway 2 in the 214 miles between Grand Forks and Minot.

Devils Lake had a pretty neat downtown district, since there were so many very old buildings that still gave off the aura that the city was a booming “gold rush”-type town. Needless to say, however, the city also had a newer business district, complete with a not-yet-closed Kmart and a not-yet-supercenterized Wal-Mart.

After Devils Lake, it was time to head more-or-less directly south to Jamestown. We got on North Dakota highway 20 and made a pretty scenic jaunt into and around Devils Lake. I say into because the road travels not only around the lake, but also through the middle of it. There is quite a stretch of roadway where the expansive waters of the lake are on both sides of the road, and it seems as if the only thing holding the road in place is large, tan-colored rocks that make up the road’s shoulders.

There was a tiny chapter about Devils Lake in Flood Stage & Rising, a book I just finished reading. I scanned the three pages that make up the chapter, and you can read them, here (page 1), here (page 2), and here (page 3). The book is an excellent read if you want to find out what it was like to live through the 1997 flood first-hand and/or want an outside observer’s opinion on why the Upper Midwest is a great place to live.

Oh yeah, those pages I scanned also provide a very good idea of what the region encompassing Devils Lake is like.

After passing by the lake, highway 20 connected with U.S. Highway 281, which brought us through some very quiet, small towns. We made stops in New Rockford (population 1,463) and Carrington (population 2,268), and even though Carrington seemed to have more activity going on, there was a very strange feeling that we were the only car on the road as we traveled along the cities’ house-lined streets.

We finally made it into Jamestown after this, and found our hotel room for the night. Jamestown is probably best known as being the city that has the “largest buffalo in the world” in it, as that, and other tourist trap attractions, can easily be found off of interstate 94 passing through the outskirts of town. Jamestown is, however, also the hometown of author Louis L’amore and also features the impressive James River Valley.

Pretty much the entire city is located in the deep valley, so one of the fun things to do is go up to where the large buffalo is – since it’s located on top of a hill – and look below at the entire city, which has a population of 15,527, and is the largest in the 200-mile distance between West Fargo and Bismarck.

After moseying around town some more on Saturday, we finally left at around 1:30 PM. It had started raining at around noon, but it wasn’t that heavy, and it certainly didn’t stop me from going to find Jamestown’s only geocache, the Jamestown Centennial Forest. Even though I got pretty wet, it was nice to know that I finally got around to dropping off a travel bug I had had in my possession since – oops! – November.

The rain picked up as we got on the interstate to head east of town. By the time we made a stop in Valley City, 30 miles away, the rain was constant and heavy. Valley City was a lot like Jamestown, in that the entire city was built in a valley. It, like Jamestown, was pretty scenic, but, unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures since it was raining so heavily.

We then traveled into some very, very heavy rain outside of Fargo near Casselton and Mapleton. The shoulders on the interstate were starting to flood, and many of the farm fields in the area had large puddles of standing water. Also, it was very hard to see the road, especially when going 65 miles per hour, which was technically below the North Dakota interstate speed limit of 75 miles per hour.

When we finally arrived in Fargo, the rain let up, and it even looked like the sun would pop out of the clouds for a little bit. There were large puddles of water all over the place, especially in a lot of the intersections in Moorhead. In fact, we drove through a very large puddle that was so deep, water came up to the bottom of our van. Fortunately we made it through all right, even though driving through the puddle probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do.

After Glyndon, the rain clouds really lifted, and we actually didn’t run into any rain after that. The sun even made a brief appearance around Detroit Lakes, though it was quickly replaced by another band of clouds.


One of the large walkways on the UND campus

The Red River - looking toward the Minnesota side

The marker showing how flood waters have gotten

A train crossing the bridge bridge going over the Red River

The city of Grand Forks doesn't allow mowing along the river. It was pretty neat to see all the different types of grasses and wildflowers growing.

The Grand Forks Herald clock tower

Devils Lake and dead trees

Devils Lake in more photogenic light

A train comes past New Rockford's large grain elevator

An artistic b&w shot of some of the railroad tracks going through New Rockford

Symmetry in downtown Jamestown

Overlooking the eastern end of Jamestown from the hill the large buffalo is on. This picture was taken at 9:17 PM; because Jamestown is close to the western border of the central time zone, sunset didn't occur until 9:29 PM.


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Mitch's Blog began on December 23, 2001