Fergus Falls, MN to Riverdale, ND., Lake Sakakawea, Coal strip mine, Lewis and Clark museum

Riverdale Travel Blog

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Lake Sakakawea

My stay in Fergus Falls was nice and relaxing and all too soon, it was time to continue west. On the 7th , I got on the road and drove into North Dakota and half way across the state. This leg was quite boring with fields of corn and wheat on rolling hills with an occasional small town off of the interstate. Got to Bismark, ND. and then turned north for about 50 miles to the Corps of Engineers Park at Lake Sakakawea. (Yes the spelling is correct for the lake.)

The first few days were spent exploring the area around the campground. There were tiny towns on either side of the dam just upstream of the campground neither of which had any facilities or gas stations. Talk about tiny. As a result, I drove out a few miles to the little town of Beulah where I found services and a neat museum which was loaded with displays about the early settlers of the area.

Gasification Plant
Agriculture and mining and not much else was their claim to fame. One thing that stood out was the heavy ethnic population that immigrated there. A lot of eastern European and Scandinavian folks came here to farm.

Near the lake I saw several coal mines and power plants so I decided to check them out. My first tour was the Dakota Gasification Plant near Beulah. This plant converts a very low grade coal called Lignite to synthetic natural gas. It is the only plant of this kind in the USA and one of only 3 in the world. The others are in South Africa. The plant is huge because of the many processes the lignite needs to go through to produce the natural gas. Many former waste by products are now being turned into valuable usable chemicals.

Coal Mine
This has turned a losing facility into a now profitable venture.

Right next to the gas plant is a electric generating plant which uses the lignite as the fuel to run it. Up the road from these facilities is a large coal mine which provides all of the coal for both. I did a very interesting tour of the mine and came away with an appreciation as to how we can harvest natural resources without damaging the environment. The land that has been mined has been returned to the farmers in its natural state and is once again turning out crops just like it did before the coal was removed. The strip mining is monitored by over 20 governmental agencies so that the land is returned to it's natural contours. You would never know that it had ever been touched.

Coal Mine
I have a much greater appreciation of the responsible way they are NOW being operated.

Near the mine, I visited the Lewis and Clark interpretive center where I saw many artifacts about their travels through this area. It was near here that they hired Sakakawea to help guide them west. near the center they have recreated Fort Mandan where Lewis and Clark wintered with friendly Indians. Not worth the admission charge of $7.50.

Summary: Elk RV parking; 52; Escapee RV Parks: 26; Public RV Parks: 44; National Parks: 56; Ships: 17; Forts: 29.

Expenses: 48 months on the road with an average of $1964 per month.  

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Lake Sakakawea
Lake Sakakawea
Gasification Plant
Gasification Plant
Coal Mine
Coal Mine
Coal Mine
Coal Mine
Lake Sakakawea
Lake Sakakawea
Lake Sakakawea
Lake Sakakawea
Lake Sakakawea
Lake Sakakawea
Lake Sakakawea
Lake Sakakawea
Coal Mine
Coal Mine
Drag Line
Drag Line
Gasification Plant
Gasification Plant
Drag Line
Drag Line
Generating Plant
Generating Plant
Old Drag scoop
Old Drag scoop
Mighty Big
Mighty Big
Reclaimed coal mine land
Reclaimed coal mine land
Coal Mine
Coal Mine
Riverdale
photo by: kensac