As Don & I travelled across the midwest – through North Dakota – we headed towards Beaver Lake State Park. With the map spread out on my lap (with the cellphone close by, of course!) I could not see why we were headed to this quiet area – a North Dakota State campground surrounded by farmland. The map showed only straight lines – no deviation as we kept heading south past wheat and barley fields.
Once we arrived at the campground, the Ranger personally greeted us. As the only patrons at the campground, he was happy for company. What? We are the only guests in the campground?I have never stayed solo in a State Park before – and as a person who needs noise around me, it was an unusual experience. Is someone going to climb out of the hills? Oh, wait, there are no hills here!
We were joined by other guests after a few days – but we did initially have the campground to ourselves!
Entering the campground – or viewing it from above – you see it is a perfect oval.
Makes one wonder if this was a track at one time – and if you did think that, you’d be correct!
After early settlers moved on, the land was turned into one of the fastest half-mile horse tracks in the area; races drew large crowds from miles around. After the last race ended – over fifty years ago – a Works Progress Administration crew moved in, improving the land for a campground use. A stone house was built that later became housing for park caretakers.
The park has a few easy hiking trails, good for wildlife viewing and a nice view of the lake. After a short hike, we ventured into town to poke around and see what was doing.
As we sat at a local restaurant sorting through the town’s activities, we met one of Napoleon’s local characters. Our activities for the remainder of our short stay were taken care of. Harley Grentz had adopted us for the next few days!
Harvey and his side kick, Roger Martin opened the local museum the following morning – these folks have gathered all kinds of local artifacts filling numerous buildings.
An original community church, the local school bell – along with the one-room school house, teaching grades 1-8. Also a Civilian Conservation Corps built outhouse. We got to poke around all of these treasures…..
Also in the collection – an original caboose, a local train station and this great windmill shown above.
Many of the townspeople miniaturized – by one of the locals Napoleoners!
And found below were some of the kind people who opened the museum for us – including Roger’s former co-worker, Clara.
For our final day in the area, Harley & Roger took us out to the grain fields – and ensured we got to ride on a thrasher that was harvesting barley from the fields.
Harley still owns acreage in the area – this crop is contracted to Budweiser to make the king of beers!
And as the final stop, Harley brought us to view his family’s homage to farm life. Harley’s Dad started placing old thrashers on a ridge – Harley has continued the tradition started by his Dad, John. Located outside of Napoleon on Route 34, providing a nice afternoon walk.
Named by a National Geographic staffer, on the outskirts of Napoleon, you will find the “Dinosaurs on the Prairie” – approximately 20 old thrashers snaking up a hill. Overlooking farms for miles around, of course.
Harley spotted us sitting alone in a local restaurant and decided none of his neighbors were showing us any hospitality – meeting Harley, Roger & other locals was highlight of our North Dakota visit.
Our stay in this friendly, warm town is one we will remember for quite some time, thanks to two Gentlemen who went out of their way to share some hospitality with some strangers – now (hopefully) friends.