When I was a kid, on Sunday afternoons, either my mom or dad would occasionally say “Let’s go for a drive.” It was often a short drive, but usually included a drive around a marsh to see the waterfowl and other wildlife. I suspect many among us still like to occasionally go for a drive and see a little of nature.
And now during the fall migration there is much to see. So grab your binoculars, a bird guide, and other appropriate items and go check things out. It is a great way to see a little “Natural North Dakota.” Birds and other wildlife, plants, geology, interesting scenery, it is all here. And there is no shortage of places to go. For some of you, it is as simple as heading down the nearest gravel road. For others it might take a bit more planning.
North Dakota is home to several National Wildlife Refuges, and there is probably one within a short drive. Many of the refuges even have self-guided auto tour routes which provide good opportunities to view wildlife.
The state also has three National Grasslands; the Little Missouri National Grassland covers a large area in the badlands, the Sheyenne National Grassland in Ransom County, and the Cedar River National Grassland in Sioux and Grant Counties. They are interesting areas with interspersed public and private land. And of course there are nice drives within the north and south units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
The North Dakota Tourism Department has designated several stretches of road in the state as Scenic Byways and Backways that provide access to some interesting flora, fauna, geology, and more. These include the Chan Sansan Scenic Backway along the James River, Killdeer Mountain Four Bears Scenic Byway, Sakakawea Scenic Byway along the Missouri River, Rendezvous Region in and around the Pembina Gorge, the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway, and the Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway.
There are many other interesting drives, such as highway 16 between Beach and Sather Dam south of Carboneau. So go see a little Natural North Dakota from your car. And if you have a favorite drive, we would like to hear about it. Just go to the Prairie Public Facebook page and tell us about it.