Travel: Jamestown, home of the world's largest buffaloJAMESTOWN — The World’s Largest Buffalo isn’t fat. The 60-ton concrete-and-metal bison was just sculpted that way.
By: Kari Lucin , The Dickinson Press
JAMESTOWN — The World’s Largest Buffalo isn’t fat. The 60-ton concrete-and-metal bison was just sculpted that way.
From his post at the end of 17th Street Southeast, Dakota Thunder has presided over Jamestown since 1959, providing thousands of tourists with photo ops every year — if they’re willing to stand back far enough to fit his 26-foot-tall profile into the frame.
Dakota Thunder isn’t the only special bison in town either. The National Buffalo Museum has 30 live buffalo roaming more than 200 acres, including three albino bison — White Cloud, Dakota Miracle and Dakota Legend.
“They’re sacred to Native Americans. To our knowledge, there are no other albino buffalo anywhere in the world,” said Felicia Sargeant, museum director.
She added that although some buffalo are born white, they often darken as they grow older, or have other markings on them.
Spotting the albino bison can be tricky, because their eyes are sensitive to light and they often seek out shade. Sargeant advised visiting the grounds in the mornings or evenings when the sun isn’t as intense.
“There’s days where they’re laying right out in front of the museum,” she added.
Within the museum, visitors can learn about the history of buffalo, from prehistoric times into the present, see Native American artifacts and artwork and view an extensive antique gun collection. The museum is also featuring “Memories of Rural North Dakota Folk Culture,” an exhibit of woodcarvings featuring rural life.
Educational yet fun
Jamestown has plenty to offer history-lovers and families too.
The Frontier Village features 24 buildings that re-create a pioneer town, each filled with historical artifacts and antiques.
Every other Saturday at 3 p.m., the Wild West Players gather and perform a shootout for visitors, getting people in the crowd involved — even deputizing some of the youngsters.
But the biggest attraction at the Village is actually its stagecoach, which offers rides for $5 per person. Its horses are massive, but they’re also tame and extremely calm, said Frontier Village Manager Tina Busche.
Frontier Village also features Louis L’Amour’s Writer’s Shack, with plenty of information about the writer, who came from Jamestown, and gift shops offering North Dakota products, souvenirs and artwork.
Frontier Village, the National Buffalo Museum and the World’s Largest Buffalo are all clustered together at the end of 17th Street Southeast in Jamestown. For more information, including hours and ticket prices, visit www.tourjamestown.com.
For more history, visitors can stop by Fort Seward and its Interpretive Center, located at 605 10th Ave. NW.
The center has artifacts from archaeological digs and displays showing the history of Fort Seward, which served as a military outpost from 1872 to 1877.
“We’re going to have some campfire chats every Wednesday, starting May 30, at 7 p.m.,” said Jane Norman, staff member at the Interpretive Center.
Topics for the chat will vary from week to week. The first one will be about the history of Fort Seward and its establishment, and the second, on June 6, will be a presentation on guns used during the Indian Wars.
Also in June, Fort Seward will feature a demonstration of its infantry cannon, Norman said.
The Stutsman County Memorial Museum, located in the Lutz Mansion, shows a selection of Native American memorabilia, antique guns and items from local history, such as a dress worn by Jamestown native and jazz singer Peggy Lee.
The museum is at 321 Third Ave. SE. For more information, visit www.tourjamestown.com or call 701-252-6741.
The great outdoors
Jamestown Dam, created to prevent flooding of the James River Valley, also created the 2,500-acre Jamestown Reservoir, good for boating, fishing, windsurfing and water skiing. There are plenty of campgrounds and picnic facilities all around the lake.
“People come out here just to sightsee. You don’t have to have a specific activity or a whole bunch of recreational gear to do the sightseeing or birding or the hiking trails,” said Bob Martin, Pipestem Dam manager.
Pipestem Dam created another, smaller water body — Pipestem Reservoir, which contains walleye, northern pike and crappie enough to make any angler happy.
There’s one main boat ramp with a dock on it, but there’s also a high-water dock for wet years.
“There is a campground out here, but it’s primitive — there’s no electricity or flush toilets, or drinking water,” Martin said.
Many people visit the area just to go hiking or biking on the 13 miles of trails around the Pipestem Dam, and the Jamestown area itself features 35 miles of trails.
“They’ll see wildlife — deer, pheasants, all different types of songbirds, and of course, this time of year there’s a lot of different types of ducks around and also Canada geese,” Martin said.
The area around Jamestown is famous for its birding opportunities, according to Birding Drives Dakota, a nonprofit birder group.
Maps and directions for several routes in Jamestown can be found at www.birdingdrives.com.
About 15 miles north of Jamestown along U.S. Highway 281 lies the Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge, which attracts 14,500 visitors annually.
Those venturing farther northwest of Jamestown can find Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1908 and serving as a refuge for American white pelicans.
Even farther afield, about 35 miles east of Jamestown, is the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway, a 63-mile stretch of road featuring flowers and greenery in the spring and an impressive display of autumn colors in the fall.
For more information, call 701-845-1891 or email email@example.com.
Lucin is a reporter for The Jamestown Sun, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.