They call it the Rendezvous Region for a really good reason. This is where people and cultures came together. Sitting at the intersection of North Dakota (then the Dakota Territory), Minnesota and Canada, Native American tribes, including the Ojibwa, Dakota, Assiniboine and Cree, moved in from Minnesota to hunt buffalo and take advantage of natural food sources in the region. They were followed by Scottish and English explorers, and French fur trappers coming in from Canada, who all intermarried with Native Americans creating a culture called the Metis, meaning “mixed blood” or “mixed race.” They were later joined by Scandinavians moving in from the Minnesota and Wisconsin, Polish immigrants, and a large group of Icelanders from Wisconsin.
As the transportation routes opened up to other parts of the continent, the region became a hotbed for international politics, serving as a gateway between Canada and the United States starting in the early 1800s. Icelandic settlers landed on the shores of Lake Renwick and others from Canada’s New Iceland near Lake Winnipeg populated the “Icelandic Townships” of Akra, Beaulieu, Gardar, and Thingwalla named after towns in their home country.
Today, the traditions of the many cultures are experienced along the Rendezvous Region Scenic Byway that traverses the northeast corner of North Dakota from Cavalier to Vang. It meanders along the Pembina River, the state’s only white-water river that carved the dramatic Pembina Gorge millenniums ago. Meandering along old rural highways picturesque settings, captivating countryside, vibrant colors of forests with picture perfect spots, and meadows carry you to a river where prehistoric fossils can be found. Slow down and enjoy the sleepy little communities along the way.