I made my first trip to the Pembina Gorge on opening day of the deer gun season. I've wanted to see the gorge for several years and finally made the trip. I recall passing by Nekoma many years ago, but know I didn't really get a look at nearby and famous Pembina Gorge country. My mistake.
The country in and around the gorge is beautiful. I was there to cover the opening day of deer season, but really wanted to do some exploring. With the help of a man who was born and raised in the area, I got to do exactly that. I was impressed.
I had a pretty good idea of what the gorge was all about, but spending some time there made me realize it was a much more interesting and diverse place than I had imagined. There's history there too, from the Gingras Trading Post to Icelandic State Park and the Pembina State Museum. After seeing it, it is not hard to see why the region was so attractive to the first settlers in North Dakota.
Some of the long forgotten towns had meaning to me too. Olga and Concrete are little more than a house or two now, but their roots run as deep as it gets in this state. Both places had small churches standing tall, a reminder of the significant role and importance of faith to early day North Dakotans.
To me, the Pembina Gorge is as unique to northeastern North Dakota as the Badlands is to the southwest. The Pembina River cuts through some of the most scenic terrain anywhere, flanked by high hills covered with trees. Occasional clearings make for natural wildlife parks. The river, streams and a few impoundments, some made by beaver, add to the beauty and life of the region.
Deer and elk are common in the Pembina Hills. Moose used to be plentiful, but they have had disease problems for several years now and are seldom seen. The occasional mountain lion or black bear is sighted, and more frequently the bobcat.
Without question the Pembina Gorge is one of the true treasures of North Dakota. I got my first look at the gorge during deer season, but would like to return during the spring or summer. Who doesn't enjoy great scenery, wildlife and history all mixed into one? The Pembina Gorge has all of that.