Upside Down Under: Bliss on the backway…

Written by: Marvin Baker

This is a continuation from last week about driving on North Dakota’s highways. We have 13 scenic byways and backways and each one of them affords unique natural beauty of its region.


Three routes are along the Canadian border, seven are in western North Dakota and three are in the east. A byway is a paved road and a backway is a gravel road. Tourism numbers them so we’ll start with No. 1.


Chan SanSan Scenic Backway
: South and east of Jamestown, starting in Adrian, this backway highlights the James River Valley. Travelers descending into the valley see a winding river surrounded by tall grass prairie and wildflowers. This area is rich in Indian history, earthen mounds and early settlement.


Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge Scenic Backway: As its name suggests, the 13-mile Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge Scenic Backway south and east of Kenmare offers ample opportunities for spotting wildlife, from deer and moose to more than 250 species of birds. Drive along the backway at U.S. Highway 52, and follow it north to the end of the refuge at Ward County Road 1.


Killdeer Mountain Four Bears Scenic Byway:
From the Killdeer Mountains to the deeply entrenched Little Missouri River Breaks and Badlands, this 64-mile byway provides a unique landscape in one of the most scenic areas of North Dakota. The rich culture and history of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes along with the cowboy and rodeo lifestyles provide visitors an enthralling adventure.


Sakakawea Scenic Byway: This byway starting near Washburn highlights fantastic views of the Missouri River Valley along with some of the state’s most outstanding Lewis and Clark destinations. Visitors are able to follow the course of this great journey and discover the history and culture of the people who lived in the rolling hills and wooded valleys of the Missouri and Knife rivers.


Old Red Old Ten Scenic Byway: An alternative to Interstate 94 between Mandan and Dickinson, this route offers a leisurely drive through lovely, rural countryside and leads through Mandan, Almont, New Salem, Glen Ullin, Hebron, Richardton and the Schnell Recreation Area, a 2,000-acre nature preserve located between Hebron and Richardton.


Rendezvous Region Backway:
This backway located in northeast North Dakota is a special place steeped in history, with natural resources, recreation, scenic beauty and culture. Winding along the bends of the Pembina River you can enjoy the panorama of the Pembina Gorge and enjoy the recreational, historical and natural scenery opportunities between the communities of Langdon and Walhalla.


Sheyenne River National Scenic Byway: Tree-lined, rolling hills are dotted by quaint towns and farmsteads, lending to its charm. Nature and scenery, archaeology, history, culture, and recreation are all found along the state’s first nationally recognized scenic byway. Forty-one award-winning interpretive panels are spread over the 63-mile drive from north of Valley City and to Kathryn, Fort Ransom and Lisbon.


Standing Rock National Native American Scenic Byway: Grand vistas present the Missouri River along the same routes traveled by Lewis and Clark, Sakakawea and Sitting Bull. View bison herds and eagles’ nests. Sitting Bull lived and died here; Meriwether Lewis and William Clark stopped 14 times. It is the final resting place of Sakakawea.


Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit Scenic Byway: This road near Watford City memorializes the 26th President for his enduring contributions to the conservation of our natural resources. It provides the colorful North Dakota Badlands as a scenic backdrop with its sweeping vistas of the one of the last remnants of wilderness in the northern Great Plains.
Turtle Mountain Byway: Beginning three miles north of Rolla, its upward accent winding through the calm serene beauty of the Turtle Mountains passing farmsteads, pasture land, recreational areas, the International Peace Garden, Christian retreats, beautiful Lake Metigoshe and others, tree covered wildlife areas and then descends into the foothills with a spectacular view of the prairie.


Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit Byway
: See scenic splendor in the beautiful North Dakota Badlands. The South Unit includes a scenic loop drive, wildlife viewing, hiking, camping and ranger activities. A visitor center is located in the park at the entrance in Medora.


Enchanted Highway
: The Enchanted Highway begins at Exit 72 on Interstate-94 near Gladstone and terminates 32 miles down the road in Regent. Beginning with “Geese in Flight,” large metal sculptures are placed along the highway, each with a parking area and kiosk except “Geese in Flight,” which is viewable from the adjacent interstate.


Devils Lake Loop:
Devils Lake is known as one of the best fisheries in the nation. The city namesake, meanwhile, is equally alluring for its small-town charm and friendly people. Fishing, birding and hunting adventures await. The largest natural body of water in North Dakota is home to large numbers of walleye, northern pike and white bass and is known as the “Perch Capital of the World.

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