North Dakota: Seeking Antiques Beyond the Red River

By Susan Eberman – For Antique Trader

Located across the Red River from Moorhead, Minn., Fargo was the hometown of New York Yankees outfielder Roger Maris. When asked about creating a museum in his honor, Maris first declined and then reconsidered, saying, “Put it where the people will see it and where they won’t have to pay for it.” Opened in 1984 and completely remodeled in 2003, the museum is located inside West Acres Shopping Center. There, you can sit on Yankees seats from the Maris-era as you watch game videos of the man who is best known for hitting 61 home runs in 1961 and breaking Babe Ruth’s 1927 record.

Displays at the Fargo Air Museum include a F2G-1D, the world’s only flying Super Corsair and a WWII Beech Staggerway. Bonanzaville is a 15-acre recreated village that includes a sod house and museums housing cars and farm equipment.

Known as the skyscraper of the plains, the Art- Deco-style State Capitol building is more than 241 feet tall. Guided tours include an 18th-floor observation deck. The 132-acre park around the Capitol has statues, memorials, hiking trails and the North Dakota Governor’s Home. It’s also the site of the North Dakota Heritage Center, which showcases items relating to state history. Their prehistoric displays and enormous collection of Plains Indians artifacts are among the most exceptional of their exhibits.

In 1873, the 7th Cavalry, under the command of General George Custer, arrived at what is now Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. Their mission was to protect Northern Pacific Railroad workers. A year later, this was the largest and most important Northern Plains fort; 650 soldiers were needed to maintain it. In 1876 the army fought in the Valley of Little Big Horn to send non-treaty Indians back to their reservations. But 260 men, including Custer, didn’t make it back to Fort Lincoln. By 1883 the railroad to Montana was completed. and Congress officially abandoned Fort Lincoln in 1891. Today costumed interpreters show what the fort was like in its prime in 1875.

On-A-Slant Indian Village is another popular park attraction. Tour five reconstructed earth lodges for a glimpse into the lives of the Mandan Indians who lived here from about 1575-1781.

Mandan’s former train depot is now Five Nations Art Depot. The original works of more than 200 Native-American artists and craftspeople can be purchased here.

Named for America’s 26th president who had a great interest in environmental awareness, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is North Dakota’s only national park. Its 110 square miles are divided into three units. The largest is the South Unit where the Medora Visitor Center displays some of Roosevelt’s personal belongings, as well as ranching and natural history exhibits.

Maltese Cross Ranch cabin, where Roosevelt stayed during his visits to North Dakota from 1883 to 1885, offers a variety of summer programs. Don’t miss Painted Canyon, which is known for its magnificent scenery that changes from morning to night, as well as throughout the seasons.

The best feature of the North Unit is its 14-mile scenic drive. Located between these two units is the Elkhorn Ranch Unit, which is the smallest and most isolated. Be sure to check with rangers for up to the minute information about road and trail conditions.

Fort Union Trading Post National Historical Site was built in 1828 to help with the sales of beaver pelts and other furs. At that time, beaver fur hats were all the rage in New England. One-hundred people lived and worked here, including the clerks who kept inventory, the hunters who provided fresh meat, and cowboys who tended horse and cattle. Following a smallpox epidemic and lessening interest in furs back east, the outpost was sold to the army in 1867. Today summer visitors can tour the trade house. Costumed interpreters explain how the Indians bartered furs with the traders in exchange for guns, knives, beads, fabric and kitchen utensils. The Bourgeois (pronounced boor-zhwah) House Visitor Center, which is open all year, showcases archaeological finds. Special events include the Fort Union Rendezvous in June, the Indian Arts Showcase in August and the Living History Weekend every Labor Day.

Two of the oldest tribes in North America, the Hidasta and Mandan Indians, settled along the banks of the Knife River about 1300 A.D. For about 1,000 years they had a very advanced community of 3,000 to 5,000 residents, which some archaeologists have dubbed the Chicago of its day.  It was here in 1804 that the Lewis and Clark Expedition met Sacajawea, who proved an invaluable guide on their journey. Following the smallpox epidemic of 1837, the tribes moved their villages. Today, visitors at Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site can take self-guided walking tours and view a replica earth lodge. Fishing, hiking, nature photography, bird watching, snowshoeing, kayaking, and cross-country skiing are popular activities here, but there are no campgrounds.

Located on the North Dakota-Manitoba border, the 2,300-acre International Peace Garden is a floral masterpiece along the world’s longest unfortified border. Learn how this attraction started in 1932 and find out how 150,000 flowers are planted each year, with only the floral flags of the United States and Canada remaining unchanged. While baby strollers, wheelchairs, and bikes can be rented and there are plenty of hiking trails, many visitors take 40-minute bus tours through the gardens. Attractions include water gardens, gazebos, fountains, the English Carillon Bell Tower and the 18-foot working clock whose floral face changes each year. Constructed of steel girders from the World Trade Center, the 9/11 Memorial Site displays a list of victims in the Peace Chapel. In 2004, the North American Game Warden Museum opened with programs and historical exhibits dedicated to those who protect wild life and natural resources. Opened in 2005, the Memorial Garden honors game wardens that died in the line of duty.