North Dakota’s Most Beautiful Town
Only one hour west of Fargo, North Dakota’s Most Beautiful Town offers a perfect day’s peace in the summertime. It is an arcadia nestled in the heart of the Sheyenne River Valley.
Valley City is unique for being so densely wooded in an otherwise prairie state. Trees tower over the river which gently meanders through town. Stroll down the Sheyenne River Valley Scenic Byway and see North Dakota the way it had been before brick and mortar changed it. Whitetail and squirrels go about their usual business. Avocets with their curious upturned bills investigate for things that live under stones by the river bank. Yellow-billed cuckoos, bobolinks and dickcissels chorus beneath a sky that seems bluer than anywhere else.
Yet modern additions to the Sheyenne River Valley have only made Valley City more scenic. On the north edge of town you can marvel at the High Line Bridge, which stretches 3,860 feet long, rises 162 feet above the river, and comprises 7,000 tons of old American steel. Continue down the river to see the Hospital Bridge, the Rainbow Bridge, and the Mill Dam bridge, each a feat of engineering in its own right.
In downtown Valley City you will find true Americana. Stop by the Rosebud Visitor Center to see an immaculate 1881 superintendent’s railcar and learn about the pioneers who built North Dakota. The exhibits at the Barnes County Museum change frequently, but Gundy the Triceratops, whose 18 foot long skeleton was retrieved intact from the Hell Creek Formation deposits, will forever remain the museum’s star attraction.
Valley City is still mom and pop stores. If you’re in need of a good shodding you’ll want to visit Bong’s Bootery, who have got everything from boots fit for a Rough Rider to foam clogs that would be considerably less appropriate to wear while liberating Cuba. The most fashionable visitors to Valley City must browse the ladies’ apparel at Blush Boutique, and Eagle’s Nest Bookstore & Gifts has got all the locally-made jams, salsas and chocolates which no shopping trip to small town America can do without.
Get to Valley City early enough and you can order the Vikinator, the signature breakfast plate at Vicky’s Viking Room. Take your time getting there and you’ll still be in good care courtesy of the Wild Prairie Bakery – where they strongly advise ordering the BIG bowl of knoephla soup. And if you care to travel up north to Lake Ashtabula, the Hungry Pelican Lake Resort will treat you to pizza, nachos and ice cream on the waterfront. It is well worth the trip, as those are all good foods.
Thus fortified you can go to explore Medicine Wheel Park. The 30-acre expanse by Valley City State University was chosen for preservation for its 12 Native American burial mounds. In 1992 Professor Joe Stickler and his students began work on a medicine wheel modeled after the Big Horn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming. The stone formation is now 213 feet in circumference, with 28 spokes that represent each day of the lunar cycle. The park also contains a scale model of the solar system in which the medicine wheel center represents the sun, its rim represents the Earth’s orbit, and successive boulders represent the planets. Will you make the one-third of a mile trek to discover Pluto? (It doesn’t matter what NASA says. Pluto will forever remain a planet in our hearts.)
Valley City presents itself without ostentation. It is North Dakota at its purest, rich in natural beauty, history, shopping and charm that everyone in the family will enjoy. To see everything North Dakota’s Most Beautiful Town has to offer, please visit valleycitynd.org.
By David Scheller