North Dakota (Part 1)

Hi everyone,

We just returned from a trip to North Dakota to visit our moms. They seem to be doing fine, Donna’s mother is 92 and mine is soon to be 87, both still live out on their respective farms. Fortunately, they each have someone to either stay or check on them everyday.

There was a little snow on the ground when we arrived in ND on November 27 but nice, mild weather (at least for out there, mid 40’s and no wind!) soon melted most of the snow. The clear, blue sunny skies greeted each day and nights the stars shone so clear and bright. While visiting Donna’s mom, I made a couple of photo shoots to the Badlands and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP). One of my trips was to a place I never visited before, the Petrified Forest at the South Unit of the TRNP and on the west side of the Little Missouri River. The easiest access is by driving a seven mile gravel road to a small parking lot followed by about a mile hike of reasonable difficulty for someone of my age! A more challenging route is to hike through the Park on the Maah Daah Hey Trail starting in Medora. The day was sunny and beautiful with very little wind. On the hike, I saw a big, old bison bull grazing by himself, several mule deer with their big ears and hopping gait, and an eagle. Here’s one of the photos I took of the bison from across a deep ravine after observing him for many minutes.

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The Petrified Forest is a geological wonder. About 60 million years ago, this area was on the edge of a flat, swampy expanse that contained dense forests of cypress, magnolias, palm trees and other water loving trees and plants. Over the period of millions of years the vegetation formed a deep layer of peat and eventually a soft, woody coal called lignite. North Dakota has the world’s largest reserve of lignite coal with some visible layers in the buttes and exposed hills in western ND. Volcanic ash from the eruption of the Rocky Mountains to the west covered the area and buried plants and animals that lead to fossilization. Water and silica soaked into the buried trees and turned the wood to stone through the process of petrification. Water and wind erosion exposed the remains of these petrified trees, mostly the stumps. The Petrified Forest in the TRNP is believed to be the third largest in the US, after the Petrified Forest and Yellowstone National Parks. Here are a few of my photos from this area of the park.

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The next day, I made an excursion to the North Unit of the TRNP between Grassy Butte and Watford City. Fortunately, the road in the Park was still open all the way to the Oxbow Overlook, the road often closes at about the 7 mile mark as winter approaches. There was a bit of snow remaining in the park that added some interest to photos. Below are some photos taken at the River Bend and Oxbow Overlooks.

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River Bend Overlook
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Oxbow Overlook
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Oxbow Overlook
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River Bend Overlook

While at the North Unit, I saw lots of bison, estimate 100+, some were grazing very close to the road while others were aways off on the rolling prairie.

That’s enough for this edition. Watch for North Dakota (Part 2) later this week.

Until then,

Tom

8 thoughts on “North Dakota (Part 1)

  1. Tom, thank you for sharing your beautiful photographs and the educational insights you observed in North Dakota. I have been to the places you describe. Wonderful. I love the WEST.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Tom. I too love the West, this area is near where I grew up but didn’t really start exploring in depth until 7-8 years ago. I never tire of the exploring and can’t wait to return.

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  2. Very cool pictures of a fascinating place. Did you see any other people? The unusual weather provides opportunities to visit uncrowded places.

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    1. There weren’t very many people around. At the Petrified Forest, I saw another couple with two small kids. At the North Unit, it was a Sunday so there were a few other park visitors. I always like going to these parks in the off season, not very many people.

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  3. Great pics Tom. Welcome home to drab Madison. Thought I noticed a little light shining from your corner of the block. Great to hear the moms are doing well. Some fine longevity on both sides.

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