Bois de Sioux
I have been thinking about North Dakota geography lately. That is partially because I recently overheard a conversation about the flooding in Fargo last summer, and one of the participants asked about the source of the Red River. I overheard a little speculation, but I never did hear the answer.
Most every grade school kid in our region learns that the Red River forms the eastern boundary of North Dakota. But where is the source of the Red? With the exception of those of you that live in the south eastern part of the state and adjacent Minnesota and South Dakota, I suspect a goodly number of North Dakotans have likely forgotten this little morsel of state geography.
The Red River begins in Wahpeton-Breckenridge at the confluence of the Ottertail and Bois de Sioux Rivers. It then flows north into Lake Winnipeg, and of course is North Dakota-Minnesota state-line for its entire length in the U.S. So we now have the state line figured out north of Wahpeton-Breckenridge. What about that portion southward? It is the Bois de Sioux River all the way.
The Bois de Sioux is the Rodney Dangerfield of North Dakota – Minnesota border rivers! It gets no respect!
The Bois de Sioux comes out of Lake Traverse in the northeast corner of South Dakota. It flows a short distance, then through Mud Lake, before crossing into North Dakota. Much of the upper end of the river has been channelized.
Eric Sevareid’s Canoeing with the Cree is about his canoe trip from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay the summer of 1930 following his high school graduation. The trip took him up the Minnesota River and then into the Red River via Big Stone Lake, Lake Traverse, and the Bois de Sioux River. The Bois de Sioux was a struggle. The combination of a thick stands of tall “reeds” and basically no current, he and his partner covered a good portion of the river pulling the canoe through the water with a rope while each of them walked opposite shores.
When the river appeared canoeable, they often ended up wading through shallow water. Needless to say they were quite happy when they reached Wahpeton and discovered the Red had open water and a good current.
So if you ever consider canoeing the Bois de Sioux, you may want to check with some locals first.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Dakota College at Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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