89. T Roosevelt NP North Unit, Fort Peck, MT and on to Malta, MT

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Left Dickinson, SD and headed north with the intent of getting back on US2.

It wasn’t long before I came to the first sunflower field with all the flowers tilted to the sun in my direction. These fields which seem to stretch forever are quite an amazing sight.

On the way I planned on stopping at the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt NP located about 60 miles north. Within the park is a primitive, no services, campground – Juniper Campground – and I thought I might stay the night if there was availability.

Well, there was lots of room at Juniper Campground as the Corps has it closed for the season. Not sure why as the Corps campgrounds were open for business at the South Unit. However they couldn’t diminish the great Juniper fragrance.
The road into and thru the park is 14 miles long and is not a loop meaning the total drive is 28 miles or pretty much a minimum of 1 to 1.5 hours
Lots of great sights. The North Unit is generally more green than the South. This area is known as cannonball concretion valley
Overlook with the Little Missouri River below

Leaving Northbound from the Park, you enter the now famous Bakken Formation or Bakken Shale Formation. Whether the name is known or not, this area is pretty much responsible for breaking the back of OPEC and Russian oil domination. As one of the worlds largest oil fields, the oil is extracted by the fracking process which was profitable during the high priced oil era. The towns resemble boom towns with commercial streets filled with machine shops, drilling equip sales, welding operations and myriads of support facilities. Neighborhoods of hundreds each new manufactured home are everywhere – pretty much vacant now. With the Bakken oil fields helping the U.S. gain its independence from foreign oil, prices have plunged to the point that fracking is no longer profitable. A hundred miles or more driving thru an area exemplifying “boom or bust”.

At Williston ND I finally hooked up with US 2 and made the turn West heading to Montana. By this time, with the ‘detour’ into the North Unit, it was becoming a longer day than I intended and looking at my options I decided to head to Fort Peck, MT. Fort Peck is the location of another large Missouri River dam with numerous Corps of Engineers campgrounds. One, where I’ve stayed before, has electric and water and nice spacious sites. Located within a mile is the Montana State Fish Hatchery which I’ve seen before and which is most interesting. It’s huge and they stock MT lakes with millions of fingerlings each year (125,000,000 walleyes, 500,000 chinook alone annually). They raise the fish from eggs transferring the tiny fish into huge regulated interior vats and from there into one of forty 10 acre ponds.

The campground was the Downstream Recreation Area and Campground and it is located in a wooded area at the bottom of the dam near the spillway. Sites are level, large and with lots of space between campers.

My back in site
Looking towards the back side of the dam from the campground road. Yes, that is a pickup towing a camper on the road atop the dam. Dam length is 5 miles at 250’ high. The lower portion of the dam’s bulwark is covered with rather fine gravel so that if there is water seepage thru the dam, it will be visible by darkening the gravel. And yes, you can see seepage at the highest part of the gravel between the power poles. This is normal. My rig did not get washed away!😎😎😀
For a sense of scale, this is taken from the top dam road very near to the location where the camper was pictured. The arrow locates the campground.
And again from the road, this is the Missouri River that the dam is holding back. This upstream side is fortified with huge boulder rip rap
The towers (there are two) stand at the bottom of the dam’s spillway and house the hydro electric plant facility. The arrow points to the campground.
And from the overlook are the 4 sentinels guarding the upper entry to the spillway
Stored in the event of need are spare huge granite boulders to be used to fortify the back side of the dam. As best I could calculate, this ‘pile’ is about the size of a football field by about 10’ high. Just out of sight are large front end loaders and other earth moving equipment for use in an emergency.
The view of the spillway towers from the campground road.

I planned on staying Monday to spend time at the fish farm. I went there when it opened only to find a very small section of the building, housing maybe 20 stuffed fish specimens, open. All the good parts – being able to walk around the tanks, vats and ponds – were closed due to COVID19. What a disappointment. Since there also was zero cell phone coverage, no WiFi and no TV (No over the air and the satellite was blocked by trees), I went back to the campground, hooked up the Jeep, pulled in the slides and left.

As you can see, US2 pretty much follows the river valley

I thought about getting to Havre MT but instead opted for a shorter day stopping at Malta, MT, primarily a ranching town. I’m camped for the night at a motel. It’s a ‘walkout’ motel with a grade down behind it where they have a reasonable full hookup transient campground. I napped a little while the washer and dryer were doing their bit.

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