We pulled into Cross Ranch State Park. It was a warm Friday afternoon. The park was clearing out over 12 inches of new snow that had fallen just a few days previous to our arrival. For those of you who don’t know, Cross Ranch State Park is located on the west bank of the Missouri River about six miles Southwest of Washburn, ND. The Cross Ranch boasts the oldest stand of Cottonwood trees in North Dakota.
For us, we had rented the Pretty Point Yurt. If you are curious as to what a “yurt” is, photos of the three yurts are available on the Cross Ranch website. Pretty Point is a modernized yurt complete with running water, shower, complete kitchen, and enough room to sleep six. The other yurts at The Cross Ranch are not quite as modern. My spouse believes that indoor plumbing is one of those modern features that far outweighs outdoor pit toilets. There are also three cabins at the Cross Ranch. The newest, The York Cabin, is similar to Pretty Point Yurt, in that it has all of the modern amenities.
Reservations for the Cross Ranch yurts and cabins are on their web site but let me give you a hint to plan ahead. These facilities are booked out into 2024 already.
So why bother, Rod? If we can’t book the cabins and yurts, the Cross Ranch may not be an option. Saturday’s weather was such that packing the family up and heading to the Cross Ranch for a day of family fun in the North Dakota outdoors was certainly worth the trip. The cross ranch is less than 90 minutes from Minot. An early morning departure will get you there around 10 AM. Of course, you will have packed a lunch to enjoy either in your car, or out on the trails. There are also restaurants in Washburn, but the Cross Ranch is six miles from Washburn as the crow flies, probably closer to 20 miles by car. But it’s up to you. Whatever works.
Once at the Cross Ranch your options are many. First, there are a lot of trails that they keep groomed for cross country skiers. One of those trails parallels the Missouri River. Saturday the river was completely frozen over. However, on Sunday the river had opened up. Not exactly sure why, but soon the river will be the winter home to hundreds of Canadian Honker geese who spend the winter in North Dakota
Another option, snowshoes that are available to rent at the visitor’s center. I kind of put this activity with ice fishing and curling. Telling people, you had the opportunity to snowshoe in North Dakota, well that should garner their attention, right? Another hint. Snowshoeing and cross country skiing are not for the faint of heart. Allow time to traverse the trails and enjoy the scenery. Once again, there are trail maps available at the visitor’s center. My 11 year old grandson took a photo of a cottonwood tree that was more than likely alive during the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804. He is from West Fargo and thought he would share the photo with his Social Studies Class. He fell out of favor for just a minute when he asked if I could remember the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Gotta love those grandkids…
Speaking of Lewis & Clark. As you turn to go west on Highway 200 in Washburn, to your right is the Lewis & Clark interpretive center. I could list it in best kept secrets, but it is worth stopping and learning about the expedition that opened the west to civilization. Even if the Cross Ranch is not your destination, it’s a wonderful place to stop and stretch your legs and learn.
Our trip to the Cross Ranch ended early on Sunday morning as we were watching a Blizzard Warning that was soon to encompass the area. The Cross Ranch is an annual trip for us. May as well enjoy what winter has to offer, and at the Cross Ranch it offers a lot.
Best Kept Secrets
The Audubon Wildlife Refuge is just off of Highway 83 as you are headed south towards Bismarck. This is another of those family destinations that will keep you entertained. If you are limited in time, there is a free auto tour of the over 15,000 acre wildlife refuge. Always teaming with wildlife, be sure to bring your binoculars. The refuge center has maps and guidebooks.
You know you’re getting old when your children are studying in history what you studied in current events.