I was going through some old papers the other day and came across an “honorary deed.” I had forgotten about that deed for one acre of “Cross Ranch on the Missouri.” The details of the transaction are forgotten, but the deed looks pretty official, complete with a seal, red ribbon, and the signature of the Official Land Agent, Ol’ Reb from KFYR Radio. There is no date on the deed, but The Nature Conservancy’s Cross Ranch Preserve was established in 1982. I suspect some of you listeners may also have one of these honorary deeds tucked away somewhere.
Before purchased by The Nature Conservancy, Cross Ranch was privately owned, and consisted of some good northern mixed grass prairie, wooded draws, and about seven miles of relatively undisturbed floodplain forest along the states only free flowing portion of the Missouri River. It was, and still is, an ecologically significant area. Some of you may recall that the Cross Ranch was purchased with the support of over 6,000 individuals, foundations, and corporations ponying up about 1.5 million dollars.
Today, of course that tract of land, roughly five and a half thousand acres, consists of Cross Ranch State Park and The Nature Conservancy’s Cross Ranch Preserve. A small daily fee or park pass is required for the park; however The Cross Ranch Preserve is free and open to the public.
There is much Natural North Dakota to see in these areas. There are several miles of hiking trails along the Missouri River giving the observer opportunities to experience a bit of what the Missouri River may have looked like before the dams were constructed on the river. As you might expect, a wide variety of plants and animals can be observed along the way.
If prairie is more to your liking, there are trails there as well. This time of year, the wildflowers put on a colorful show, and the preserve contains a herd of bison. With a little luck, birds such as the Sprague’s pipit and Baird’s sparrow may be observed, and the preserve is home to the Dakota skipper, an endangered butterfly.
There has been some flooding along this stretch of the Missouri River this summer, of course, but consider visiting Cross Ranch Preserve and Cross Ranch State Park before the snow flies. But if you can not get that done, it is still a marvelous place during the winter months, perhaps on snowshoes or cross country skis.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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