Magic of State Highway 36
For adventure in North Dakota, sometimes you have to look a little harder. State Highway Thirty-Six is a good place to start. The east-west roadway runs for about ninety miles between Wilton and Pingree in central North Dakota. There’s plenty to see and do along the roadway, especially since Robinson, North Dakota has claimed the geographical center of the continent. Mayor Bill Bender registered the federal trademark after the city of Rugby let its claim lapse. Today, Robinson claims it’s “the only righteous and legal geographical center of North America.” The city of forty residents celebrated its first annual “Center Fest” with music, visual art and amateur boxing. The new geographical center of the continent is supposedly in Hanson’s Bar on Main Street.
Head east and south from Robinson and you’ll find another continental superlative. Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a Globally Important Bird Area that President Theodore Roosevelt established on this date in 1908. Tens of thousands of pelicans flock to breed and nest at this alkaline lake north of Medina.
Bookending Highway Thirty-Six are classic examples of history and scenery. Wilton is home to two of the state’s remaining Ukrainian orthodox churches. East of Pingree is Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge. Wildlife and plant life abound – including waterfowl, lady’s slipper orchids, and endless grass and sky.
You can also find history along the highway in the handful of shuttered one-room schoolhouses. And it’s worth a stop in Lake Williams to get a smile from the cleverly vandalized “Pettibone Brain Co.” Get your kicks on Highway Thirty-Six.
Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura