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Denbigh Forest worth the visit

Hiking, biking, birdwatching abound

Kim Fundingsland/MDN The Denbigh Experimental Forest is located approximately 40 miles east of Minot on the south side of U.S. Highway 2.

DENBIGH – A forest on the plain of North Dakota? Yes sir.

Believe it or not, an area designated the Denbigh Experimental Forest is located about 40 miles east of Minot on the south side of U.S. Highway 2. No, it wasn’t a naturally occurring feature on the North Dakota landscape, but it has been thriving since 1931. A little background is in order here.

The Denbigh Experiment Forest goes back to when the Dust Bowl struck McHenry County, resulting in the establishment of the forest in 1931 as a 640 acre research project to determine what trees could survive in the area in “Dirty 30’s” conditions.

As time progressed more than 40 different species of trees were planted in the “forest.” Most of them are still growing today, conifers and hardwoods towering high above the surround terrain. Today the forest falls under the management of the Sheyenne Ranger District office of the U.S. Forest Service in Lisbon.

The forest is unique to the state, no question about that, and it is a wonderful destination for hikers and birdwatchers and others. Horseback riding is encouraged in the forest and is enjoyed by many throughout the year.

Kim Fundingsland/MDN A walking path enters the edge of the Denbigh Experimental Forest. The forest offers several trails of varying lengths and interest.

Hikers will find the forest’s Denbigh Trail very much to their liking. The 3-mile loop winds through tree plantings and prairie unlike anything to be found elsewhere in the state. The trail is well marked and graveled as needed. One loop on the trail winds through a historic arboretum and can be walked as a short trail or in conjunction with the entire length of the Denbigh Trail.

Visitors entering the forest travel a short distance through a tree lined roadway before passing by a seasonal caretakers cabin and entering an open area for parking vehicles. A kiosk provides further information for visitors and a comfort station is available.

Although there are no formal campgrounds within the forest, camping is allowed but limited to 14 consecutive days. Dispersed camping is allowed anywhere in the forest except at day use areas and trailheads.

Also, very North Dakota-like, horses have the right-of-way on the forest trails, followed by hikers and bikers. No motorized vehicle are allowed on the trails but there is a short auto tour route that gives the visitor a very good look at the forest.

The Denbigh Experimental Forest has a “leave no trace” policy, meaning visitors are asked to pack out all their trash to minimize impact on a natural resource. The cutting or removing of any “timber, tree, or firewood” is prohibited without a permit issued by the Sheyenne Ranger Office.

Kim Fundingsland/MDN This sign at the Denbigh Experimental Forest indicates a tree planting that began in 1935. Signs identifying other tree plantings can be found throughout the forest.

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Extensive walking paths take the hiker through a variety of woodlands at the Denbigh Experimental Forest. Some of the forest can also be traversed by vehicle.

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