Thursday, August, 19 through Saturday, August 21, 2021
Our short drive from Graham’s Island State Park, Devil’s Island ND to Red River State Recreation Area East Grand Forks, MN was uneventful. The only place we stopped was a really nice North Dakota rest area. Our new location is just across the Red River from Grand Forks ND, the larger of the twin towns. The weather is warm and muggy, perfect for development of some thunder storms.
Well, folks, it seems that we are just in time for the The Fourth Happy Harry’s Rockin’ Up North Fest. Featured recording stars are Diamond Rio, Joe Nichols, Jordan Davis and Tigirlily with opening acts of Dariann Leigh, Jensen Sisters, Paint the Town, Matt Aakre, The Dirty Little Secret, Junction 281. And the great thing is we don’t have to leave our campsite to enjoy their music as the stage is set up a mere 400 feet away.
The area was for years a meeting and trading point for Native Americans. The French set up a trading post here in the early 1700’s. The US acquired the land with the Treaty of 1818. After battling the Ojibwe and other Native Americans for years, a treaties were made which extinguished their land claims. Alexander Griggs, a steamboat captain, is regarded as The Father of Grand Forks. Grigg’s steamboat froze in the Red River in 1870 forcing he and his crew to over winter camping at Grand Forks. Griggs platted the community in 1875 and incorportated in 1881.
East Grand Forks is smaller than it’s sister across the river at 8600 souls. Downtown consists of small businesses, many restaurants, movie theater and a large Cabelas Sports Shop. Red River State Recreation Area is a short walk from downtown. It features nice grounds, large campsites, grass lawns, trees large and small. The park is located in a former residential neighborhood. Several great floods caused the neighborhood to be abandoned and rebuilt behind a very large levee. The state park sits on the bank of the Red River and will be inundated in the event of another major flood event, but for now, it’s very enjoyable.
Excerpt from Wiki: The Red River flood of 1997 was a major flood that occurred in April and May 1997 along the Red River of the North in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Southern Manitoba. It was the most severe flood of the river since 1826. The flood reached throughout the Red River Valley, affecting the cities of Fargo and Winnipeg, but none so greatly as Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, where floodwaters reached more than 3 miles (4.8 km) inland. They inundated virtually everything in the twin communities. Total damages for the Red River region were US$3.5 billion. The flood was the result of abundant snowfall and extreme temperatures.
Flooding in Manitoba resulted in over $500 million in damages. The Red River Floodway, an artificial waterway completed in 1968 and known as “Duff’s Ditch”, diverted some floodwaters around Winnipeg, saving it from flooding. As a result of the 1997 flood and its extensive property losses, the United States and state governments made additional improvements to the flood protection system in North Dakota and Minnesota. They converted former areas of development in the floodplain on both sides of the river to the Greater Grand Forks Greenway, providing year-round recreation areas for residents as well as a natural way to absorb floodwaters. A dike system was built to protect the twin cities of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.
Grand Forks (52,838 souls) is the third largest city in the state and seat of Grand Forks County. Grand Forks is home to University of North Dakota, an International Airport, Grand Forks Air Force Base and a large Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail yard. The city also has large sports complexes. We found the city to have a vibrant economy.
The weather turned for the worse on Friday. Grand Forks is just inside the boundary of a severe weather alert issued by the National Weather Service. We decide to take a short orientation tour of the city in the morning before all hell breaks loose. When we return Jil downloads a good weather app onto her phone. Between her phone and my computer we can track any foul weather that may head our way.
Well, it does head our way….. Jil’s phone announces that rain will come in three minutes. It does….. how do the phone know? Lightning and thunder follow downpours. In the afternoon I track many angry looking cells on the real time Weather Underground weather map. Two heading straight towards Grand Forks are declared as tornado warnings with one producing a brief touchdown with no damage created. An hour later the tornado warnings are lifted is favor of warnings of 60 mph winds. We don’t experience those winds and all is well for the night.
Saturday we spent quite a bit of time exploring. We find the very nice park that contains the Japanese Garden and spend some time touring the Univeristy of North Dakota campus. At one point we come to what appears to be Checkpoint Charlie with signage placed in the middle of the street and a young man directing traffic.
He motions us forward to his location. Jil asks “What’s going on?” He replies “It’s move in day!” for the students occupying the dorms. Well, I hope he didn’t think we were there to do that! We find a place to extract ourselves from the hoards of students milling near the dorms and tour some nice residential areas.
Back home we have full hookups- electicity, water and sewer. It’s a shame not to take advantage of the utilities so Jil throws a load of clothes in our clothes washer. Now remember clothes dryer died on the second day of our trip. This is day 22 and the only time we visited a laundry was back in Dillon, MT and that was only to dry our clothes.
Contrast the Huge North Dakota Hockey Center with typical modest “Forks” home
So with some ingenuity we set up the bedroom as a drying room. The clothes drying rack is utilized to hang some clothes and hangers others. We turn on the portable electric heater close the door, isolating the bedroom from the rest of the coach. It worked! Cloths dried in less than half the time.
Our coach located on a very spacious RV site and one of several “ice houses” that are in the park. Ice houses are towed onto frozen lakes. There are hatches in the floor where one can drill holes through the ice, then drop your fishing line in- in hopes of a catch.
Tomorrow we head down to Fargo. Again it’s not a long drive so we can dawdle a bit if we are so inclined. We again are staying in a Minnesota state park- Buffalo River. We’ve been to the park once before about four years ago when we took our Great Lakes trip. See you there!