Pembina Gorge to become North Dakota's 14th state park

North Dakota hasn’t had a new state park since 1989

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Two off-highway vehicle riders drive along one of the multi-use trails at the Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area.
Contributed / North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department

WALHALLA, N.D. – For the first time in more than 30 years, North Dakota will soon have a new state park.

The Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area will become North Dakota’s 14th state park, Gov. Doug Burgum's office announced on Monday, May 22. The most recent state park developed in North Dakota was Cross Ranch State Park near Center, which opened in 1989.

"The Pembina Gorge is one of North Dakota’s most beautiful areas, offering an incredible array of recreational activities including canoeing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, skiing, snowmobiling, hunting and birdwatching. Establishing our 14th state park in the Pembina Gorge will elevate its status as a must-see destination and provide additional opportunities for visitors from North Dakota and beyond to experience all that this special area has to offer,” Burgum said in the announcement.

The announcement comes after the North Dakota Legislature approved $6 million for the northeast North Dakota recreation area during the 2023 legislative session.

The $6 million approved by the Legislature, matched by $2 million from a federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant, will be used to develop a 35-site campground, six all-season cabins, a comfort station, shop, seasonal staff accommodations, roads and underground utilities. In the future, a visitor center, indoor and outdoor learning areas, retail and office spaces could be constructed.


“We are deeply grateful to the Legislature, our state Parks & Recreation Department and all the local and regional stakeholders whose tireless work and passion for the Pembina Gorge helped bring this vision to reality," Burgum said.

If North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum decides to run for president, "he'll be a long, long shot but he's used to that," columnist Scott Hennen writes.

The Pembina Gorge State Recreation area opened in 2012. A master plan for the recreation area was made in 2014, and has been used to guide long-term goals for visitor experience, facility development, resource conservation and property management.

Today, the recreation area features 30 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding and off-highway vehicles. It encompasses 2,800 actors of public land.

In 2017, the Parks and Recreation department secured 165 acres near the recreation area to develop a campground. Preliminary plans and drawings for the campground have been under development through 2022 and 2023.

“The Pembina Gorge is a pristine area that holds incredible promise,” North Dakota Parks and Recreation Director Cody Schulz said in the announcement. “With over 1.2 million people within a two-hour drive, the Pembina Gorge and this state park will spur additional tourism to the area. We are grateful to the Legislature for this generational investment into the project. Our vision is to enhance and grow the area into an overnight destination property that draws visitors throughout all four seasons.”

Outdoor recreation accounts for $1.4 billion in economic activity in North Dakota, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. In 2020, state park visitation in North Dakota contributed $154 million to the state’s economy and supported 1,850 jobs, the announcement said.

Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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