On May 22, Gov. Doug Burgum announced the Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area will be developed and become North Dakota’s 14th state park.
A total of $6 million in funding for this venture has been secured by the North Dakota Parks & Recreatikon Department during the 2023 legislative session. A matching $2 million will come from a federal grant.
The park, just west of Walhalla in both Pembina and Cavalier counties, is a sight to behold. It starts at the Canadian border and runs in a bit of a southeasterly direction toward Minnesota.
There’s hiking, four-wheeling, birding, photography and big game watching opportunities. There are trails all over the place, including in the deep woods that doesn’t at all seem like it’s in North Dakota, but it is.
And one thing a lot of people forget is the winter beauty of the future Pembina Gorge State Park. The only other winter place like it in North Dakota is Lake Metigoshe. It has plenty of winter recreation opportunites, however, it doesn’t have a lake.
Instead, the Pembina River is the lure in water. It starts on the Canadian side, runs southeast of Walhalla cutting into the gorge then, much like the Souris River at Minot, makes a turn to the northeast and heads up toward Neche and Pembina.
There are a number of people who didn’t want -+-+y that is provided in the current recreation area.
But the North Dakota Parks & Recreation Department has assured everyone, including those in the Walhalla area who dissented, that development will be done with as little disturbance as possible, so as not to diminish what the gorge already is and has been for decades.
The plan for the park will include underground utilities, roads, a 35-site campground, six all-season, full-service cabins, a comfort station, shop and season staff accommodations. In the future, the park may include a visitor center with indoor and outdoor learning areas and retail and office space.
A few additional things to remember that are indirectly related to this new state park. Frost Fire Ski Area and Summer Theater is located west of Walhalla, Langdon is about 35 miles southwest, the Pembina State Museum is 28 miles, almost straight east, Icelandic State Park is located near Cavalier, 25 miles southeast and the GingrasTrading Post of territorial days is located just to the north and east of Walhalla. In addition, Winkler, Manitoba is approximately 30 miles northeast of the park.
Back in the 1990s, the North Dakota State Geological Survey began digging for dinosaur fossils in the Pembina Gorge. Today, the digs are more structured with fees attached, but if your interested in digging for Mosasaur bones, this might be your gig.
There’s plenty of evidence pointing to the Mosasaur living in the gorge area a long time ago. To find more information about that, the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre is located in nearby Morden, Manitoba, just 40 miles northwest of Walhalla. It’s a great site to learn about marine reptiles.
So there is a lot going on in the northeast corner of North Dakota that will be taken up a notch when the gorge gets its state park status.
To some, this is a long time coming. There are numerous people living in Pembina and Cavalier counties who believe the gorge should have been a state park 30 or 40 years ago. But, it’s never too late and many of those same people strongly believe the state park status will bring an uptick of tourism, not only to Walhalla, but to Pembina, Cavalier and Langdon; those four communities are known as the Rendezvous Region.
Whatever the case is, it would behoove you to visit, if you haven’t already been there. You just have to see it and experience it. Describing it doesn’t do justice.
Just do yourself a favor, gas up the car and go visit. You’ll be glad you did and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.