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As Lewis and Clark headed out west, they made many stops, including the area known today as Cross Ranch State Park. Running along the western bank of the Missouri River, this 258-acre expanse of North Dakota is also a neighbor of the Cross Ranch Nature Preserve, which includes another 6,000 acres of undeveloped prairie land, undisturbed forests, and pristine shoreline.
Less than 50 miles from the state capital of Bismarck and only 250 miles from Fargo, Cross Ranch State Park is a quiet retreat, perfect for any campers looking to experience what the Northern Midwest might have looked to those first explorers and the tribes who inhabited the area.
Cross Ranch State Park and the neighboring preserve of the same name offer 16 miles of trails for those looking to explore the area on foot. Several of the trails are set up for cross-country skiing in the winter, including Matah River Trail, Cottonwood/Gaines Trail, and Levis Trail. For those cold-weather campers looking for something in between, there's the sole snowshoeing trail, Ma-ak-oti, which translates to “old village.”
Day-trippers and visitors camping at Cross Ranch State Park can enjoy the peaceful waters of the Missouri River. Salmon, walleye, pike, and bass keep fishing fans busy, and the boat ramp offers the opportunity to fish off-shore. The river attracts visitors of the four-legged variety, including bison, so it pays to keep your eyes open and camera ready.
No matter how Cross Ranch State Park campers choose to enjoy their time, there's no need to tote all your equipment with you. Rentals are available on-site and include both warm and cold weather activities. From canoes and kayaks to snowshoes and snowmobiles, the park is able to cater to all sorts of explorers.
The park boasts two campgrounds, including Sanger Campground and Governors Centennial Loop Campground. With its boat ramp and close proximity to the Missouri River, Sanger Campground is perfect for those individuals and families with a love of water, with amenities to cater to fishing and boating. This is the quieter of Cross Ranch State Park’s two campgrounds, with 16 back-in electrical sites, vault toilets, and a picnic shelter. All sites have 30-amp service, except for one site that includes 50-amp as well.
Motorhome camping groups will be particularly interested in the Governors Centennial Loop Campground as it offers six group sites with electricity and two primitive group spaces. There are also 20 single electric sites available along with a list of amenities, including a visitors' center, an amphitheater, playground, comfort station, and two vault toilets. Nature abounds in this campground. The Matah River Trail is a short walk away, and several of the Missouri River’s islands sit just offshore, providing the perfect opportunity to paddle out to discover the untouched areas surrounding the park.
Those looking to camp in an RV at Cross Ranch State Park are encouraged to reserve their spaces online or over the phone. Pets are welcome as long as they are kept on leashes, and Wi-Fi is available for those who like to explore the web along with nature.
Cross Ranch State Park is equidistant from the Great Lakes and Yellowstone National Park, a ten-hour drive to the east or west. Closer to the park is a large swath of America’s Midwestern wilderness, which is home to many attractions related to nature and history.
The Sioux Ferry provides a tour of a section of the 2,341-mile-long Missouri River. Guests can also experience the self-guided tours at the nearby Scientific Center of America. While less than natural, there are several famous animal statues in the area. Salem Sue, a large cow statue, sits atop a hill to the southwest, but campers should park at the bottom and not attempt to park in the lot at the top near the statue. Rusty the Turtle is less than an hour to the northeast, a small-town treasure that's worth a stop for the selfies alone.
Knife River Indian Villages National Historical Site and Fort Mandan offer two opportunities for campers to experience the way life was for Native Americans and explorers such as Lewis and Clark. Both attractions provide replicas of the homes and villages that protected towns and travelers as they attempted to settled the area or make their way farther west.
For modern-day travels, provisions are much more readily available. There are several gas stations on the other side of the river and the restaurant scene is dominated by saloons and pizza joints. The area surrounding Cross Ranch State Park has been a place of rest for explorers over the years and today is no different. It's still a welcome retreat for state park campers looking to get back to nature and satisfy the explorer in us all.
There's no shortage of adventures to be had in this breathtaking part of the Midwest, so kick off your motorhome camping trip and book an RV in Oliver County today.