I was looking at the North Dakota map recently, and Pembina and Cavalier Counties caught my eye. The distance between Cavalier and Walhalla is only around 30 miles, but this area contains a wealth of biological diversity. Species of the forests, grasslands, wetlands, and more can be found here. And to top it off, there are over 8,000 acres of public land to explore a little Natural North Dakota.
The Pembina River, dips into North Dakota from Manitoba northwest of Walhalla before continuing eastward where it drains into the Red River. The Pembina Gorge and associated “Pembina Hills” are among the more unique and interesting areas of the state, which includes perhaps the most extensive remaining forests largely dominated by oak and aspen.
The Pembina Hills State Game Management Area consists of several units with a wide variety of habitats totaling over 5,000 acres in and around the Pembina River and Little North Pembina River. Habitats to be explored here range from forest to prairie to wetlands which support a wide diversity of plants and animals. Although it is likely too late for canoeing, much can be seen by car or on foot.
Just south of Walhalla is the Tetrault Woods State Forest, consisting of a little over 400 acres where you can hike forested and grassland habitats along the Pembina River. A bit further south is the J. V. Wessels Wildlife Management Area, covering over 3,000 acres of mostly aspen forest.
If you are looking to spend some time at a state park, check out Icelandic State Park along the Tongue Rive a few miles west of Cavalier. The park contains upland forests of oak, aspen, and birch, as well as lowland forests of elm, basswood, and ironwood as well as some unique spring fed alder thickets. As you might expect, the park is rich in flora and fauna.
So if you are looking to explore an area with some great scenery and biological diversity this summer, consider the Pembina Hills area. But given the interspersion of public and private land, it is best to have a good map. The North Dakota Game and Fish’s Plots Guide is a good choice, as is a county map or atlas.