A Tale of Two Campgrounds

“Just take a left turn after the Mackinaw Bridge”

That’s what we’ve done when you look at the map of our trip.  Since our departure from Port Saint Lucie just over 3 weeks ago, we’ve driven over 2600 miles.

Our last two camps have been in East Grand Forks, MN and Fort Peck, Montana.  

Both towns have benefitted from work done by the Army Corps of Engineers, but for very different reasons.

The campground at East Grand Forks is in the center of downtown, on the banks of the beautiful Red River.  The campground was created by the Corps on vulnerable land after a major flood in 1997 devastated the town.

We are now camped at the Fort Peck Dam, a New Deal project run by the Corps that is one of the largest dams in the world.

Two camps…two very different experiences.


Our campsite at the Red River State Recreation Area in East Grand Forks, MN

The first camp at East Grand Forks is located in the Red River State Recreation Area. It is a sweet camp for a quick overnight because it is just down the street from Cabelas and some great restaurants.  Rob and I dropped into Cabelas for some bear spray, then headed across the street for some burgers and beer.   The camp was convenient, but expensive, costing over $40 for the night (full hookup) by the time we paid for the campsite, registration fee and park entry fee.  The park has nice bike trails that run along the river and people were out walking their dogs and riding their bikes, enjoying a beautiful evening.


You can see the bridge to North Dakota from the trail, but you can’t see Russia :-).


Westward bound, we pack up early the next morning.

The sky opened up as we drive across North Dakota, approaching Big Sky Montana.   I’m discouraged as I look out the window across the plains along Route 2 when I see damage that the oil industry has done to the landscape.  It seems as though nature and industry should be able to coexist, but here nature has been totally disregarded in our quest for oil and natural gas.  Boom towns, with acres of cheap, manufactured homes, heavy equipment and fast food restaurants dot the landscape.

I wonder what these areas will look like once the oil and gas are depleted.

It’s a long Sunday in the car.  


Our plan is to get closer to Glacier National Park by Wednesday.  Fort Peck has good internet service so Rob can set up his office.

We arrive at Fort Peck and find the Downstream Campground, located in a grassy knoll dotted by cottonwood trees.  The sites are large, and ours is very private, looking out over a grassy field.  The site includes electric and is a bargain at $10/night with our national pass.  An access trail to the many miles of bike trails adjoins our site, and as soon as camp is set up, the dogs and I go for a long walk.  They love this camp.

Fort Peck Campsite

There are several smaller lakes nearby stocked with perch, bass and other freshwater fish.  We see other campers brought canoes, kayaks and fishing boats and look forward to a kayaking expedition this evening when Rob’s finished work.

I take a drive to explore the dam while Rob’s at the “office”.  

I drive to the top of the dam and hike up the stairs to the overlook.


 ‘Stairway to Heaven’ music fills my head as I climb


The dam generates 1 billion kWh/year

The dam is over 21,000 feet long and 250 feet high, and the lake it has created is 134 miles long with a maximum depth of 220 feet.  Lewis and Clark went through here in their exploratory journey–It’s hard to believe that they found a large dry river bed when they passed through.

I get back into the car and drive the 14 miles across the high plains to Glasgow, a friendly little town nearby.  I’m looking for a new alkaline battery for the carbon monoxide detector that began beeping when we pulled into Fort Peck.  (Note to self:  Pack a supply of batteries next time).


A lonely barn in the distance on the road to Glasgow

We go to bed early only to be awakened by the sound of thunder in the distance.  Big wind gusts buffet the trailer and our awning is rattling around.  I hear more rattling as Sugar rattling trembles on the floor.  She hates thunderstorms.

I wake Rob.  “Hey Sweetie, I think we need to go out and take the awning and tent down.”  We rush out into the storm, lightening all around us, and quickly take down the awning.  The tent blows sideways before we can get to it, twisting a leg.  We take off the cover and screen and hope it’s not broken.  We just make it inside when the sky opens up and it begins pouring.  Checking Weather.com, it’s fiery red right on top of us.  The warning includes “large hail”, a particular worry when you have an aluminum Airstream.  I picture the large dead limbs in the cottonwood tree above the Airstream and keep my fingers crossed that none fall off.

Fortunately, the hail holds off.

We are greeted by a beautiful blue sky in the morning.  We survey the damage–the tent leg is OK and we bend a support back into place.  The table cloth is slightly torn, but that is our only damage.  A tree limb did fall, but landed behind our camp. Rob cleans out the grill that was blown off the table.  We pick everything up, set up Rob’s office and are ready for the day!


Rob “at work” this morning

We grab some coffee and pull our chairs out from their storage place under the trailer to enjoy the early morning sunshine.  Chula brings a ball over and wants to play, but gets distracted when a sea gull lands on the site.

Life is good.


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