The short drive to Wahpeton is worthwhile even if you only go to see Wahpper. At 25 tons and 40 feet long he is the largest channel catfish statue in the world, a monument to Wahpeton’s natural beauty who welcomes guests crossing the Red River from Minnesota. And he looks sharper than ever in his new coat of paint!
Wahpper’s tail points the way to even more summer fun. The city of Wahpeton offers a great mix of shopping, dining, art, outdoor sport and tourist attractions that will keep the whole family happy during a weekend or day trip. Here are Wahpeton’s must-sees!
You might not expect to find so large a zoo in a city of only 8,000, but Chahinkapa Zoo truly impresses with 200 animals representing 70 different species. Don’t let your cat know you admired Chahinkapa’s beautiful cheetahs, snow leopard, cougar and bobcat. See the fossa, an odd weaselly creature from Madagascar and its favorite prey the ring-tailed lemur. (Graciously kept in separate enclosures.) It is hard to believe North Dakota is home to two white rhinoceros!
Prairie Rose Carousel
Just across from the zoo sits the Prairie Rose, a nearly century-old carousel faithfully restored to its original splendor. Twenty colorful horses bob up and down on their gleaming brass poles as the calliope toots. No one ought to exit childhood before they have ridden on a real Spillman Carousel – and just three remain operational in the country.
Bois de Sioux Golf Course
Bois de Sioux is the only public golf course where you can play the front nine in one state and finish your round in another. The par 71 golf course offers a real challenge to skilled golfers, but is still surmountable to the novices and the duffers. Conclude your adventure across Wahpeton and Breckenridge, Minnesota with a beer and a burger at the clubhouse. Or do what I do and have the beer first!
Bagg Bonanza Farm Historic Site
Drive 15 minutes west to Mooreton and you will find one of America’s last remaining bonanza farms. The Bagg Bonanza Farm Historic Site sits on 15 acres of quiet prairie, in which you can tour the F.A. Bagg Farm’s fully restored 21-bedroom house, machine shops, and enormous mess hall where farmworkers once put down prodigious amounts of chow. The mule and horse barn has recently been entirely rebuilt for live entertainment.
Richland County Historical Museum
Wahpeton didn’t stop at channel catfish. Visit the Richland County Historical Museum and put your X in the world’s largest guest book! The gallery pays homage to the Wahpeton area’s roots with an extensive collection of Native American artifacts, many of which were donated by Esther Horne, the great-great-granddaughter of Sacagawea. Here you can see the Rosemeade collection, a wide assortment of decorative pieces made by Wahpeton Pottery before it closed in 1985. The museum also houses more than 15 original sculptures by John Rogers, whose bronzes depicting traditional American life are currently kept in the New York Museum of Art.
Red Door Art Gallery
The Red Door is the center of Wahpeton’s art scene, and home to a vast gallery of wood turnings, carvings and scroll saw work, metal sculptures, handmade jewelry, fused glass, pottery, photography and paintings. It is especially worth visiting Red Door to see their collection of pieces by Fritz Scholder, a Native American painter from nearby Breckenridge whose bright, post-modern style resembles a fusion of Ralph Steadman and Henri Matisse.
The entire city of Wahpeton is a gallery of sorts. Chahinkapa Park has over one dozen metal sculptures, and famed street artist Shawn McCann has adorned two downtown buildings with vibrant murals.
Forget about flying the whole family to Paris this summer. Beautiful Wahpeton has everything you need to spend your vacation the best way – the North Dakotan way! Please visit wahpeton.com to find even more ways to enjoy the scenic riverside city.
By David Scheller