Touring the Byway
22 Miles | 5 Days/4Nights | Gateway City: Grand Forks, North Dakota
The backway runs between Cavalier and Vang, meandering along the bends of the Pembina River. The river, which has carved the dramatic Pembina Gorge, is the only white-water river in the state. Enjoy the recreational, historical and natural scenery opportunities of the area.
We recommend starting your journey in Grand Forks which reveals the story of the region at attractions such as the North Dakota Museum of Art and the Grand Forks Historical Society and Heritage Village.
Leaving Grand Forks, you’ll pass through a number of small towns on your way to the start of the Byway. Minto features the St. Stanislaus Church Historic District which was built by Polish immigrants and The Walsh County Historical Museum introduces you to the heritage of the region. Grafton adds more to the story with several historic structures that are worth a visit.
In Drayton, you can learn about the unique ox carts developed by the Metis that plied the prairie trails in the early 1800s. Pembina, the first settlement in the Dakota Territories hosts the Pembina State Museum.
After spending the night in Pembina, you’ll be on your way to a full day in Cavalier. Here. explore Icelandic State Park which was established specifically to preserve the Icelandic heritage.
The town of Walhalla delivers dramatic views of the Pembina River and Pembina Gorge from the Masonic Scenic Overlook. The Tetrault Woods State Forest provides the opportunity for some peaceful natural respite. The Gingras Trading Post State Historic Site encompasses some of the oldest extant buildings in North Dakota.
After that, you’ll be continuing to Vang, where the Byway officially ends and on to Langdon for the night. From there, we wish you a safe and pleasant journey home or on another North Dakota Scenic Byway.
Download the detailed itinerary for the full tour of the Byway which includes the highlighted attractions below and much more!
The centerpiece church in the 11-acre St. Stanislaus Church Historic District, one of the most important Polish structures in the area. Splendid Gothic Revival architecture is flooded with light through 19 stained glass windows, highlighting the statuary, canopied pulpit, and twin carved confessionals. The historic district including the rectory, St. Anthony Academy, and cemetery was the social home for Polish immigrants in the area.
The seven story Observation Tower at the Pembina State Museum delivers a stunning 360-degree view of the Red River Valley, where on a clear day, you can see for nearly 10 miles. The permanent exhibit gallery features 100 million years of the region’s history, starting with fossils found at glacial Lake Agassiz. An authentic Red River oxcart is on display, along with objects from the fur trade, military forts, and history at the US/Canadian border. Changing exhibits highlight specific topics from North Dakota’s history and a gallery displays the art of Einar Olstad, inspired by ranch life in the Dakota badlands. The museum store carries items handcrafted by North Dakota artists, ranging from note cards and fur trade items to wheat weaving and Native American crafts.
Icelandic immigrants played a huge part in the settlement of northeastern North Dakota. Hailing from New Iceland at Lake Winnipeg in Canada and villages in Wisconsin, the new settlers lived in the “Icelandic Townships” of Akra, named after Akranes, near Reykjavík; Beaulieu, Gardar,
named for Gardar Svavarsson, the first Scandinavian to visit Iceland; Thingwalla, and Hallsson named for early settler, Johann Hallson. Icelandic State Park, specifically established to preserve this pioneer heritage includes the Akra Community Hall and the 1897 Hallson Church, with beautiful stained-glass windows, a church bell, pastor’s chair and altar. The Pioneer Heritage Center displays items from pioneer days in restored historic buildings from the turn of the century. The 200 acre Gunlogson Nature Preserve and sanctuary features a three-mile trail along the Tongue River with birds ranging from Watermeal and Bishop’s Cap to a dozen rare species of Pileated Woodpecker and Western Wood-Pewee.
The 170-year-old buildings at the Gingras Trading Post State Historic Site, the oldest standing structures in North Dakota, preserves the 1840s home and trading post of Antoine Blanc Gingras.
The Pembina Gorge encompasses the largest uninterrupted block of woodlands in North Dakota, and the longest segment of unaltered river valley in the state. Digs at the prehistoric fossil site has recovered marine creatures of the past, when a road project accidentally exposed the fossilized remains of a large prehistoric reptile. Interpretive signs explain the creature and the geology of the region. Birdwatchers will observe more than 75 species of breeding birds and wildlife such as mountain lions, bears, elk, and bobcats.