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Chahinkapa Park


Wahpeton, county seat of Richland County, was one of the earliest established sites in North Dakota. The settlement was founded in 1869 as Richville and later renamed Chahinkapa, which was the early Native American name for the site, meaning "end of the woods." Wahpeton adopted its current name July 24th, 1874. It is derived from a word meaning "village of many leaves" or "dweller among the deciduous trees." Wahpeton incorporated as a village in 1881, and became a city in 1884.

In 1903, Wahpeton purchased the land for a park site from the federal government. The land was located in the northeast corner of Wahpeton, along the Red River. However, it would take another three decades before the land would be established as a park. On this date in 1937, people in Wahpeton were finally able to enjoy the park, just days after its official dedication. Notably, Chahinkapa Park reclaimed one of the earliest names associated with Wahpeton.

The opening dedication for the park was quite large. And estimated ten thousand people attended, including the former governor of South Dakota, Tom Berry, and the state WPA administrators from North and South Dakota and Minnesota. Harry Hopkins, national WPA administrator and adviser to FDR, served as principal speaker at the dedication. Along with the customary political speech, he praised the grounds, and stated that the area was the "most complete recreational layout" he had seen in any community the size of Wahpeton.

Also around this time, the first Park board was established under R. J. Hughes, considered the founder of the park. A new zoo was established with "modest displays." In the 1960s, the zoo moved to its present 18-acre location at the north end of the park. Today, the Chahinkapa Zoo is an accredited part of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, having been so since the 1990s. It was the first zoo in the state to exhibit a great ape, and it now houses more than 200 animals from six continents.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker


"http://www.webfamilytree.com/North_Dakota_Place_Names/W/wahpeton_%28richland_county%29.htm" http://www.webfamilytree.com/North_Dakota_Place_Names/W/wahpeton_%28richland_county%29.htm

"http://www.chahinkapazoo.org/about.html" http://www.chahinkapazoo.org/about.html

Jamestown Sun, September 13, 1937, p1