Back Roads

What a great weekend we had out in McKenzie County.  We had several reasons to spend a day in the county – but we really only needed one.  We are preparing for the February 23 Hygge and for the month-long showing some of our Beautiful Badlands images at the Long X Visitor Center.

First Stop – Poco Frio Rio

Save the Maah Daah Hey

Highly motivated people braved the sub-zero temps to bicycle, snowshoe and cross-country ski the Badlands on the Maah Daah Hey Trail. Their base camp or staging area was the CCC Campground and the Long X Trail on the south side of the Little Missouri River, a couple of miles west of Highway 85. We stopped to visit, capture a little video and take a few photos.


No sad faces here.  Beneath the goggles and face wraps were smiles and laughter.




Across the bridge

A short history of the Longhorns on the Long X trail includes the Long X Bridge

The Long X bridge, a through truss bridge has been identified for replacement with a flat typical bridge that can handle modern traffic.

Next stop, the north side of the Little Missouri River and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It’s right across the river from where the Poco Frio Rio race was underway.

A couple of years ago as Beautiful Badlands ND was cranking up, we bought lifetime passes to National Parks. Since we spend a lot of time in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and other national parks in the West, the expense of lifetime pass has more than paid for itself.


As it is most of the winter, the scenic road in the North Unit of the Park was not open the entire way, but we thought it might be enough to get a shot of snow-crusted bison.  We got more than we expected.

They weren’t sleeping.  It seems they might have been in a bit of a hurry to get somewhere else.  Or the youngsters in the herd got the whole bunch to run.

YouTube player


For the first time ever — 20+ years of photographing bison — I got charged!  And no, I do not have a photo or video of it. I was too busy running.

Yikes! Good not to get too far from the Jeep!  I sprinted back to the open door on the Jeep and dived inside.  The bison was not interested in me and joined the herd that was crossing the road.

bison runs in snow

After I ran behind the Jeep, he took off another direction. So, maybe he wasn’t running at me, after all.


Long X Visitor Center

Long X Visitor Center

Long X Visitor Center

Val at the Long X Visitor Center in Watford City told us later that she’s been hearing from a lot of people who the bison in the Park are congregating near the road.  So, it may be a good time for you to drive through to get up close and personal with the massive beasts – just not too close or too personal.


We unloaded the first set of images to be displayed at the Long X Visitor Center, and then with what light was left in the day, we headed out for a back road jaunt on the Red Tail Road, west of Watford City. The road winds across the grasslands and down into the Little Missouri River Valley upstream (south) of the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.


This is ranch country

little missouri river badlands dusk

Dusk over the Badlands Valley.
The Little Missouri River snakes to the north where it will empty into the Missouri River at Mandaree, north of Killdeer. This is ranch country.

Cattle and horses are free to range within the perimeter fenced borders of an individual ranch.  Horses were on the road, so we stopped.

horse at car window

Ranch horses can be sociable and friendly critters.

What a bunch of friendly critters. They surrounded our Jeep, even stuck their heads in the vehicle to get scratched.  Next time, we’re bringing apples and sugar cubes!  Even the wild horses of the South Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park at Medora can be curiously friendly — just not too close.


The lengthening daylight hours gave us extra time to explore where the road takes us.
We’re looking forward to stopping in to get to know the ranchers whose land borders the Little Missouri River.  

Pretty Darn Quick.

arnegard mural

Inside the PDQ, a mural of Arnegard what it must have looked like 100 years ago.

Finally, as the day came to a close we headed back to civilization.  The PDQ in Arnegard has attracted our attention for months. Now would be the time to check it out. 

night shot of PDQ in Arnegard

Arnegard’s Pretty Darn Quick Bar and Supper Club.


Wow. What a great surprise.  We had no idea to find such good food and pleasant atmosphere as at the PDQ.  Nelly waited on us and she is a great multi-tasker.  She was waiting on another large family table, and keeping everyone, including us very happy.  She’s worth an extra big tip. 

We’ll be reviewing the PDQ in a soon-to-come post. So, add your email address in the upper right subscription box to get a note in your inbox when the story is posted.  You’ll also get a free subscription to our twice-a-month newsletter. Yippee!

It’s an easy drive home from Arnegard, through Watford City and eastward.  After a day like this, we sleep well, not only physically tired but mentally satisfied. Back road explorations are exciting and satisfying.  

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When you’re out exploring, stop in Watford City, ND.  Great people, great food, great hospitality! 


Watford City, North Dakota Fine Dining, Superb Accommodations, Great Shopping, and Things To Do!

Watford City, North Dakota Fine Dining, Superb Accommodations, Great Shopping, and Things To Do!

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