Central Flyway Chapter: New in North Dakota
Since the formation of the North Country National Scenic Trail in 1980, there has not been an established Chapter for the Western Terminus of the Trail at Lake Sakakawea State Park.
Not that it has not been attempted – there was a very small but short lived Chapter in the Lonetree Wildlife Management Area over a decade ago, and efforts to start a new Chapter percolated within Bismarck and Minot for the last four years. The existing, non-canal sections of the NCT in west-central North Dakota have been maintained by the state park, the two other North Dakota Chapters via special work trips, or by volunteer crews (e.g. American Hiking Society Volunteer Vacation). Very little work has been done along the McClusky Canal segment over the last 40 years.
The recent undertaking of three Eagle Scout projects to construct Trail in the Audubon National Wildlife Refuge provided the final impetus and motivation to establish a Chapter. The core group of volunteers leading the effort were Tom Dahle, Glee Mayer, Tim and Tammy Bohan, Greg Van Vleet and Mark Zimmerman. Another small group in the Harvey area realized that there is work to be done there to improve the NCT so that more people come to their community to use it and patronize their businesses. The Central Flyway Chapter combines these local efforts.
The new Chapter is responsible for approximately 135 miles of the North Country Trail, between the Western Terminus within Lake Sakakawea State Park, and the east end of the Lonetree Wildlife Management Area near Harvey. Lake Sakakawea State Park has served as the starting and ending point for many thru-hikers, and now, the Central Flyway Chapter looks forward to building on the partnerships with the state park, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other government agencies, communities near the Trail, and dedicated hikers and outdoor enthusiasts in realizing the great potential of this segment of the North Country Trail.
Hundreds of thousands of waterfowl cross the Central Flyway for each spring and fall migration. The beauty of the rugged shorelines of Lake Sakakawea and Audubon, and wide open vistas across the open prairies are part of the lure of this section of the North Country Trail, hence the inspiration for this Chapter’s name.
The Central Flyway Chapter is made up of dedicated volunteers, some long-time members of the North Country Trail Association and some newly minted. Everyone is eager to officially join the other two active North Dakota Chapters in building, maintaining, promoting and protecting the North Country Trail. The Chapter will also collaborate with various outdoors organizations to cultivate a culture of hiking in the region. Organizations such as the Bis-Man Trails Advocacy Group, Scouts, birders, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park’s hiking program, and others in Bismarck-Mandan, Minot and Harvey will make the hiking community possible. The Chapter looks forward to a grand ribbon cutting and trail dedication in the spring of 2021. Please stay tuned for details and if you’re interested in getting involved, please contact Matthew Davis, Regional Trail Coordinator for North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Photos by Matt Davis